Electronic Criticism: Essays and Analysis On-line
Works On this Site
Disfigured characters populate O'Connor's fiction so heavily that
it's difficult to turn a page without encountering someone with a
missing body part, a crippling disfigurement, or wild tattoo. In her
critical essay on "The Distorted Body", Katarzyna Nowak
examines how human disfigurements accumulate meaning in "Good
Country People" and "Parker's Back".
Does escapist cinema function in a fictitious movie house? In his article "Beyond
Belief: Faith and Escape in Literature of Mobility", Timothy McGrath compares the different
presentations of the American landscape in Alfred Kazin's A Walker in the City and Flannery
O'Connor's Wise Blood.
Sometimes the violent end
met by an O'Connor character shocks readers, leaving them to wonder why tragedy permeates her fiction. In his essay "Light and Shadow", David Allen Cook uses O'Connor's short
stories "A Good Man Is Hard to Find" and "The Lame Shall Enter First" to show that violence is simply
the admission price religious pretenders must pay to discover Truth.
to be able to reprint Sally Fitzgerald's "Happy
Endings", in which she discusses one of the most common complaints
about O'Connor's work.
Stephen Sparrow, our friend from New Zealand, has been kind enough
to share his work with Comforts of Home so that other readers can consider his thoughts on the theological implications of O'Connor's fiction.
If a man kills six people during a town festival because he's been
alienated and tormented by his neighbors, is he evil or simply deranged?
"Sin or Insanity" attempts to
find the boundary between evil and mental illness through an analysis of the
characters in "The Partridge Festival".
Can a racist lawn ornament be the conduit of mercy and grace? Stephen Sparrow looks for an answer in "Blessed are the Merciful", an essay on O'Connor's favorite story "The Artificial Nigger".
What impact does physical imperfection have on the biblical message that the
body is a temple of the Holy Ghost? Can a freak house the spirit of God? Stephen
Sparrow looks at these questions using the story "A Temple of the Holy
Ghost" and considers the implications of O'Connor's own encounter with
disease in his essay "This is My Body".
Can a man who knows the price of everything and the value of nothing hope to enter heaven, or is it
easier for a bulldozer to pass through the eye of a needle? In "Under
Mammon's Thumb", Stephen Sparrow considers the impact of Fortune's avarice in "A View of the Woods".
Novelist John Cheever once asked, "How can a people who do not understand love hope to understand
death?" O'Connor took this question and turned it on its ear, asking, "How can a people who do not understand death hope to understand love?" Stephen Sparrow's essay "Death Where is Thy Sting?" seeks an answer to O'Connor's question through her short story "Greenleaf".
Somewhere between the nihilistic preachings of Hazel Motes' "church of truth without Jesus
Christ Crucified", and the fundamentalist beliefs of a Baptist riverside healing lies a place
where even a child can accept the grace of God. In "Getting Somewhere" Stephen Sparrow searches for this place amongst the pages of O'Connor's story "The River".
What happens when the rebellious child of a fundamentalist Christian is initiated to the "real
world"? O'Connor bases her novel The Violent Bear it Away around this question, and Steven
Sparrow finds within it the essence of the conflict between science and religion in "Illusions, Assertions, and Denials".
Did you hear the one about the nihilist Bible salesman and the woman with a wooden leg? It might
sound like the setup for a joke, but O'Connor puts these two characters together in a barn loft in
"Good Country People", and the punch line involves the theft of more than just the aforementioned wooden leg. Want to know what Hulga Hopewell really looses? Then check out Stephen Sparrow's "Stamping Out Joy".
Can the things we make with our hands really bring us any closer to God? Do spires and crosses
open the gates to heaven, or are they just golden calves? But then, maybe God can speak from
something as earthly as a burning tractor. Consider how a simple tattoo takes on a whole world of
meaning in "The Ultimate Heresy: the Heartless God in
The short essay "Flannery O'Connor and the Theology of Discontent" offers
an analysis of "A Stroke of Good Fortune".
"What is it that makes O'Connor's stories so alluring, so compelling and yet so incomprehensible
to many first time readers?" Explore this question and ruminate on the realism
in O'Connor's stories: "realism that is hinged to the mystery of evil and which presents God as the
"The Enduring Mystery of Truth" deciphers the loaded language O'Connor employs in "The Enduring Chill".
Can you see the spark of good in the worst of humanity? In his latest article, "And
the Meanest of them Sparkled", Stephen Sparrow examines " A Good Man is Hard to Find " for proof that O'Connor could see that spark, and she believed that God could also.
"No Hell, No Dignity, No Hope", explores the interaction of pride and hope in "The
Lame Shall Enter First".
Here's a riddle for you: what does spiritual purity have to do with pigs? If you can't think of
the answer, perhaps you should read "And the Smug Shall Come Last",
Stephen Sparrow's look at pride in the story "Revelation".
"A Cluster of Freaks or Diamonds?" examines how O'Connor wields her "grotesque" characters to grant us insight into our personal characters.
Take a look at "Wisdom: Simple or Idiotic" and delve into the literal and figural
importance of sight in Wise Blood. See how O'Connor weaves religious vision and free will into a story about a man wearing a blue suit and a black, broad-brimmed hat.
Mr. Sparrow makes an intriguing connection between the historical background of "The Displaced Person" and the necessity of virtue in "No Place Like Home".
What exactly is the nature of innocence? Are children the only innocents, or is there more to the
concept than a dictionary definition of freedom from guilt or sin? Perhaps these characters from
ten O'Connor stories, will help you find an answer in "The 'Innocents' of Flannery
Tod Worner describes his personal experience with O'Connor, from his repulsion during an initial encounter with "A Good Man is Hard to Find" to his eventual realization of the "depth and quality" of her work as he discovered "The Mean Grace of Flannery O'Connor".
Distortion comes in many forms; distorted eyes cause poor vision, and distorted information causes
poor judgment, but what is the price of a distorted sense of self? Brenda Brandon looks at the
characters of " A Good Man is Hard to Find " to answer this question in her essay "The Price of Distortion".
recent visit to Andalusia felt like walking on Sacred
Ground, so we encourage our audience to visit O'Connor's home and
experience firsthand what it's like to step into the world of an
On 27 July 2007, a small crowd
gathered in Milledgeville for the unveiling of a Georgia historical
marker dedicated to Flannery O'Connor. Todd Sentell shares his personal
account of the unique dedication ceremony for this roadside marker at "The Intersection of Pick-up Trucks and Holy
Eddy Duhan was kind enough to share a poem/song he wrote entitled "Flannery's Place".
Brian Patterson considered how O'Connor uses the treeline as a spiritual symbol in her short fiction, and wrote about it in "Crossing the Black Line of Woods: A Contemporary Anagogical Perspective of O'Connor's Sentinel Line of Trees".
Comforts of Home has received correspondence
regarding the validity of opinions about O'Connor's religious and racial views. Some of
these exchanges have been productive and resulted in an editorial
dialogue, while others have simply expressed personal affront. The
administrators at Comforts of Home read all correspondence and welcome critical rebuttal,
which at times we will publish on-site, however Comforts
of Home is not a forum for material that deals solely with race, religion
or politics unconnected with O'Connor and her work. If you take personal
offense from the opinion (correct or incorrect) of any of our contributors, we
will gladly forward your communications and allow you to discuss the matter
Works On Other Sites
considering "vision" there are numerous interpretations that go beyond
mere eyesight, and Cassandra Nelson discusses how O'Connor's Catholic
perspective may have influenced her concept of vision. Take a look at "Seeing Is Believing: What Flannery O'Connor Meant by 'Vision'"
to get Nelson's take on how the meaning of vision has evolved over
time, how that connects biological vs. mechanical means of sight, and
how this all connects with O'Connor's work.
The Paris Review has an arts and culture article by David Griffith on "The Displaced Person": Reading O'Connor in the Age of Islamophobia that looks at O'Connor's story in light of the current cultural bias toward muslim refugees.
William Sessions, who
wrote the authorized biography of Flannery O'Connor after
many years of deep research through her personal papers, is the main
speaker in "Between the House and the Chicken Yard: The Life and Legacy of Flannery O'Connor"
a presentation honoring the 50th anniversary of O'Connor's death.
Sessions talks with Angela Alaimo O'Donnell, discussing O'Connor's life
and work, as well as a short Q&A with the audience where Dr.
Sessions reminisces about a long-gone Georgia of the mid-twentieth
century, and where O'Connor fitted into that cultural landscape.
Given the complexity
of O'Connor's fiction, the fact that her stories refuse simplification,
and their demand for absolute attention on the part of the reader, how
do we work with O'Connor in the classroom context? How do we bring an
audience of impatient college readers whose only experience with
O'Connor is probably reading "A Good Man is Hard to Find" partway
through their high school American Literature course, to meet her on her
terms? Nick Ripatrazone offers up his ideas in "Mystery and Manners: On Teaching Flannery O'Connor".
PBS Religion and
Ethics Weekly contains a fantastic Flannery O'Connor episode that includes interviews with Ralph Wood, Brad Gooch, Bruce
Gentry and people influenced by O'Connor's work.
A group of media students at the Western Kentucky University are working on an episodic documentary called Flannery's Porch.
Their goal is to tell the story of O'Connor's legacy in light of the
social justice issues prevalent today--sustainability, diversity,
poverty, LGBT rights, and animal rights. This means her story can be
used as a platform for telling news. The documentary begins with
O'Connor's farm and the two women working to save it, Elizabeth and
April, both lifelong Flannery fans doing their own work to preserve her
Sometimes city dwellers fantasize fondly about rural life, but Rachel Stolzman's imagination conjures more than chickens and goats. After reading O'Connor's essay "The King of Birds", Rachel made sure to include peafowl in her rural dreams. Be sure to read the rest of Rachel's blog to get a glimpse of her urban life.
Glenn C. Arbery's article "Ontological Splendor: Flannery O’Connor in the Protestant South"examines the reality of O'Connor's southern identity reflected in her fiction, particulalry "Good Country People".
Between 1971 and
the present, Joyce Carol Oates has written several essays
on O'Connor's prose, fiction and letters, which are collected on Oates' University
of San Francisco website for your reading pleasure. (Thank Randy Souther for informing us about this treasure.)
The Library of America's October 2010 "Story of the Week" was "The Train" a 1948 short story precursor to Wise Blood. If you haven't read "The Train", do take the time, because it's interesting to see the progression from short story to novel.
William Cotter's "The Artificial Flannery O'Connor" discusses the reception of O'Connor's fiction--both by her contemporaries and by today's readers--touching on controversies such as racism in the south.
In a recent ThoughtCast podcast, Tom Perrotta (Little Children, Election, The Abstinence Teacher) shares his admiration for and frustration with O’Connor, discussing her vision and genius found in "Good Country People", "Everything that Rises Must Converge" and "Revelation".
2010 Rimini Meeting included an exhibition entitled Flannery O'Connor: The Infinite Measure of the Limit, where Michael Fitzgerald (son of Sally and Robert Fitzgerald) gave a presentation on O'Connor. The conference has already concluded, but it's worth mentioning the increasing international recognition given to O'Connor.
Hungerford teaches the OpenYale course on "The
American Novel Since 1945", tracing the development of novels during
this time, the relationship between writers and readers, fiction's engagement
with history, and the changing place of literature in American culture. It's a
fantastic course, but you may be particularly interested in her lectures on Wise
Blood. Hungerford excerpts O'Connor's letters for a critical framework of
O'Connor's Catholicism, then delves into vision in relation to both O'Connor's
characters and her readers. In the second lecture Hungerford explores the
southern social context of the novel and the New Critical writing program of
which O'Connor was a product.
forced O'Connor to retire to Andalusia, she spent three hours in front of the
typewriter each morning, whether she wrote anything or not. In her time on the
farm, O'Connor not only produced a body of fiction, but kept up a copious
correspondence with over thirty people. In "Flannery
O'Connor's Written Correspondence: An Inside Glimpse at the Forging of Art
and Persona" Gretchen Dobrott Bernard considers the ramifications of
written exchange as reflected in the friendships O'Connor cultivated with Maryat
Lee and Betty Hester.
PEN American Center presents a talk given by Robert Giroux,
discussing O'Connor's genius
from a publisher's perspective.
The February 4, 2007 edition of the New York Times
included in its Travel section Lawrence Downes report on his trip to Milledgeville, offering highlights of the region as he
went In Search of Flannery O'Connor.
Gregory Wolfe's National
Review opinion piece "In God's Image: The virtue of Creativity" takes a long look at the
power of creative genius as approached by Aristotle, Wilde, Eliot, and as
exemplified by O'Connor.
The following six articles all come from Sojourners, a Christian publication that spotlighted O'Connor back in 1994/1995. If you plan to cite these articles, you should probably send an e-mail, or call the magazine to find out volume and page numbers.
(Sojourners requires a free registration to read the articles.)
.....Nature and Grace Flannery O'Connor and the healing of Southern Culture. Danny Duncan Collum.
.....A South Without Myths Alice Walker.
.....Obliged to See God. Julie Polter.
.....Stumbling Onto the Spirit's Signposts. Shane Helmer.
.....The Transfiguration of Time: Flannery O'Connor's disorienting fiction. David S. Cunningham.
Nina Butorac shared her own online critical resource
The Sacramental Imagination and Catholic Literature (or, Flannery O'Connor and those other guys) with me, and I think it's a marvelous place. In Nina's own words, the page focuses on the "Catholic 'analogical' perspective of writers such as Flannery O'Connor, Thomas Merton, Gerard Manley Hopkins, Graham Greene, Walker Percy and G.K. Chesterton, with a little Albert Camus thrown in for some atheistic spice."
Michael Bryson's online text Reclaiming the Self: Transcending the Fragmentation of the Individual Subject contains a chapter on "Transcendence Through Transgression and Kenosis: Sin as Salvation and Self-Emptying in Flannery O'Connor's Wise Blood." The O'Connor analysis stands on its own, but treat yourself and read the whole text.
Patrick Galloway's The Dark Side of the Cross analyzes some of the elements that make O'Connor's short fiction so special.
Paul Erlandson reveals the profound impact that Dorothy Sayers and Flannery O'Connor have had on his understanding of Christian art in Mystery, Manners, and the Mind of the Maker.
While searching through the Catholic Educators' Resource I located some excellent articles on O'Connor and her writing.
A Good Writer is Hard to Find Ronald Weber takes a look at the importance of O'Connor's religious faith in her writing in this bio-critical essay.
Flannery O'Connor Banned J. Bottom points out the irony of a bishop banning O'Connor from a Catholic school and uses it as a springboard for an exploration of what Catholicism means in the 21st century.
Flannery O'Connor: Stalking Pride Amy Welborn searches for O'Connor's resting place in the heart of Georgia, and finds much more than a gravesite.
For you Lit majors who enjoy analyzing
film (or film majors who get a kick out of scrutinizing literature) stop by Pamela Demory's site Faithfulness vs. Faith: John
Huston's Version of Flannery O'Connor's Wise Blood for a comparison of text and cinema.
Chris Heller has written
an interesting paper on Wise Blood. which examines the symbology of Hazel Motes' Essex.
You'll find the paper at the bottom of the page as "Essex".