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Flannery O'Connor

Writing a Theology of Disabled Humanity

Timothy J. Basselin

Publication Year: 2013

Flannery O’Connor is one of America’s most unique Southern authors. Shortly after she began her writing career she was diagnosed with lupus. Despite her illness, O’Connor authored more than two dozen short stories and two novels. Her highly regionalized Southern Gothic stories often involve grotesque characters.

Literature critic and theologian Timothy J. Basselin consults O’Connor’s life and work to illustrate the profound connections existing between the theme of the grotesque and Christian theology. O’Connor’s own disability, Basselin argues, inspired a theology that leads readers toward greater recognition of God’s activity in a sinfully grotesque world. By combining disability studies, literary critique, and theological reflection, Basselin discovers a new vision for approaching the disabled, the grotesque, and the other in society. Flannery O’Connor reignites O’Connor’s own critiques of the modern affinity for perfection, self-sufficiency, and a clear separation between “good” and “bad.”

Published by: Baylor University Press


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pp. 1-1

Half Title Page, Title Page, Copyright, Dedication, Epigraph

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pp. 2-7


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pp. vii-viii

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pp. ix-xii

God is a mystery, and it is hard to know which of our efforts in life reach beyond to touch eternity and which will only return to dust. This book may well only be dust, but the process of its creation has surely had eternal consequences. ...

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1. The Face of the Good Is Grotesque, Too

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pp. 1-32

Flannery O’Connor was diagnosed with lupus just as she became a professional writer, and she died fourteen years later at the young age of thirty-nine. Five years after diagnosis, she wrote curiously about her illness: “I have never been anywhere but sick. ...

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2. The Grotesque Good in O’Connor’s Fiction

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pp. 33-56

There can be little doubt that the primary purpose of the grotesque in O’Connor’s fiction is to hold up a mirror to her readers’ own sin and weakness, to break through cultural facades of strength and lay bare the human soul’s deformities. ...

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3. Baptizing Modernity

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pp. 57-78

Like Mary Grace, Mary the mother of Jesus was grotesque. We are not accustomed to thinking of Mary as grotesque. We think of her primarily at Christmas as the pure virgin servant found worthy enough to bear the Christ child. But what is our vision of her purity—sexual, moral, beautiful, loving, all of these? ...

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4. The Image of Christ and a Disability Perspective

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pp. 79-108

In Luke 19, Jesus enters Jerusalem on a donkey a week before his crucifixion. The author did not have to tell his readers that Jesus’ action was in fulfillment of prophecy. They knew. Jesus’ disciples, the Twelve and the others following him on that day, knew as well. ...

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Postscript: Complications of Language and Representation

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pp. 109-116

Despite the heavy influence of disability studies upon this book, I have attempted to keep the main text of the book free of disability-studies language and academic arguments. My goal has been to reimagine O’Connor’s work from a disability perspective and thereby to offer a new interpretation of her significance. ...


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pp. 117-138


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pp. 139-144


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pp. 145-146

E-ISBN-13: 9781602583993
E-ISBN-10: 1602583994
Print-ISBN-13: 9781602587656
Print-ISBN-10: 1602583986

Page Count: 158
Publication Year: 2013

OCLC Number: 852896343
MUSE Marc Record: Download for Flannery O'Connor

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Subject Headings

  • O'Connor, Flannery -- Criticism and interpretation.
  • O'Connor, Flannery -- Religion.
  • People with disabilities in literature.
  • Theology in literature.
  • Christianity in literature.
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