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Flannery O'Connor, Hermit Novelist

Richard Giannone

Publication Year: 2012

"Lord, I'm glad I'm a hermit novelist," Flannery O'Connor wrote to a friend in 1957. Sequestered by ill health, O'Connor spent the final thirteen years of her life on her isolated family farm in rural Georgia. During this productive time she developed a fascination with fourth-century Christians who retreated to the desert for spiritual replenishment and whose isolation, suffering, and faith mirrored her own. In Flannery O'Connor, Hermit Novelist, Richard Giannone explores O'Connor's identification with these early Christian monastics and the ways in which she infused her fiction with their teachings. Surveying the influences of the desert fathers on O'Connor's protagonists, Giannone shows how her characters are moved toward a radical simplicity of ascetic discipline as a means of confronting both internal and worldly evils while being drawn closer to God. Artfully bridging literary analysis, O'Connor's biography, and monastic writings, Giannone's study explores O'Connor's advocacy of self-denial and self-scrutiny as vital spiritual weapons that might be brought to bear against the antagonistic forces she found rampant in modern American life.

Published by: University of South Carolina Press


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pp. ix-xv

WE CAN NOW SAY with full assurance that Flannery O’Connor numbers among the commanding writers of the twentieth century. Her name evokes the dogged courage of fi rebrands wrestling with God. Some blaspheme him; others rant about soul-hungry Jesus; all take the path of most resistance. ...

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pp. xvii-xviii

DURING THE YEARS of work on this book, I have accumulated a number of debts. My thanks fi rst go to Fordham University for the two faculty fellowships that gave me the time to develop and complete the manuscript. When I initially tested my ideas with other scholars, their positive response heartened me about the importance of the study. ...


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pp. xix-23

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1. The Hermit Novelist

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pp. 1-30

THIS BOOK STUDIES the importance of desert life and ascetic spirituality in Flannery O'Connor's fiction. O'Connor's use of this tradition takes us back to late antiquity. About four centuries after Christ, the founding father Anthony the Great and a number of men and women were dissatisfied with the accepted way of Christian life in Greco-Roman culture ...

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2. Hazel Motes and the Desert Tradition

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pp. 31-64

NOT LONG AFTER the end of World War II in 1945, residents of Taulkinham, Tennessee, in Flannery O'Connor's Wise Blood (1952) have in their midst a man of twenty-two facing out-in the direst possible way-the consequences of his family history, war experience, and beliefs. The man is Hazel Motes, a veteran who believes in nothing and is the hero of O'Connor's first novel. ...

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3. Sporting with Demons

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pp. 65-89

IN THE PREVIOUS CHAPTER on Wise Blood, we saw that renunciation guides Hazel Motes to integrity. By facing out his unbelief through bodily mortification, O'Connor's nihilist saint finds a consoling wholeness in solitude that is denied him in the broken modern world. The insights that Motes gains in solitary warfare clearly take firm hold of O'Connor's moral ...

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4. Entering a Strange Country

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pp. 90-143

A Good Man Is Hard to Find also tells of those who combat against rather than sport with the demons besieging them. Their struggles come to us in the remaining five stories of O'Connor's 1955 collection. Like those in the preceding chapter who suffer defeat in solitude, the protagonists in the second group of stories are called to the desert, ...

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5. The Prophet and the Word in the Desert

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pp. 144-169

FROM 1938 TO the summer of 1952, visitors to the backwoods of Tennessee would have seen a man devoting the last fourteen of his eighty-four years to raising his grandnephew from infancy to adolescence. Getting to the site would take some doing. To reach it, one turns at the junction of Highway 56 onto a dirt road running ten miles. The route then becomes a twisting, lovely passage. ...

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6. Acedia and Penthos

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pp. 170-203

BY WAY OF INTRODUCING the spiritual poetics that O'Connor develops in Everything That Rises Must Converge (1965), I want to reconsider two events in The Violent Bear It Away. One scene concerns George Rayber; the other centers on Francis Marion Tarwater. In both situations, the respective character is alone in a secluded spot. Though distant from each other, the two locales are places of death and decision. ...

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7. Vision and Vice

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pp. 204-235

THREE STORIES IN Everything That Rises Must Converge involve characters who see themselves as virtuous in their concern for the welfare of others. By their lights, these upstanding persons are generous in expressing their noble spirit through both emotional and material favors. Such charity is the basis of their dignity and superiority over others. ...

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8. The Power of Exile

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pp. 236-274

SOLITUDE, AS HAS BEEN SHOWN, for O'Connor's searchers is the founding experience of a new relation with God. Byencountering their loneliness, her solitaries approach a still more unfathomable loneliness, for human loneliness in the O'Connor world touches on divine loneliness. Solitude constitutes a part of the likeness of God ...

Works Cited

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pp. 275-279


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pp. 281-287

E-ISBN-13: 9781611172270
Print-ISBN-13: 9781570039102

Page Count: 312
Publication Year: 2012