Essential facts about Flannery O’Connor, as well as a very extensive reading list!

Born Mary Flannery O’Connor on March 25, 1925, in Savannah, Georgia. Only child. Father: real estate developer. Mother: homekeeper, later dairy farmer. Raised Catholic. Childhood distinctions: shy; artistic; bizarre humor. 1938 moved to Milledgeville, Ga. 1941 father died of lupus at 40. 1942 Graduates from Peabody H.S. 1945 graduates from Georgia State College for Women. 1946 ‘Geranium’, first short story published. 1947 master of fine arts degree at the University of Iowa in creative writing. 1947-1950 in New York and Conn. writes short stories and begins first novel. Stories are violent, grotesque, with underlying Christian themes. 1950 onset of lupus, return to Milledgeville. 1951 with mother moved to nearby family dairy farm ‘Andalusia’. 1952 learns she has lupus; publishes novel Wise Blood to mixed reviews. 1955 prize-winning short stories published as collection A Good Man Is Hard to Find. 1956 health worsens, on crutches, but continues to write, travels to lecture, dotes on beloved peacocks. 1957 wins first of two O. Henry Awards. 1960 Second and last novel The Violent Bear It Away published. 1964 at 39 died August 3 of lupus, buried in Memory Hill Cemetery, Milledgeville. 1964 second collection of prize-winning short stories published as Everything That Rises Must Converge after her death.

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Flannery O’Connor managed--as few other American writers since the secularization of America--to infuse her writing with Christian mystery. She was admittedly a ‘Thomist’, i.e., like Thomas Aquinas believed that human life is connected to the divine, which is revealed through signs. In the strictest sense to a Catholic the divine is present in the Sacraments administered by the church. But Flannery was a ‘neo-Thomist’ too, avidly reading Etienne Gilson and Jacques Maritain, and a bit of a Modernist also, enthralled with Teilhard de Chardin and Freidrich von Hugel. Flannery believed the divine was revealed in every-day life as well as the Sacraments. But as an artist she chose as her ‘every-day life’ shocking examples from the rural South that affected believers and unbelievers. Why? Because the secular world is so oblivious to signs of the sacred it can see only shocking, grotesque examples. Sublety is not possible with the ‘near blind’.

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The Complete Stories.  1971. PB HC

The Collected Works: Wise Blood / A Good Man Is Hard to Find / The Violent Bear It Away / Everything that Rises Must Converge / Essays & Letters.  1988.  HC 

The Correspondence of Flannery O'Connor and the Brainard Cheneys. Edited by C. Ralph Stephens.  1986.  HC

Everything That Rises Must Converge
.  1965  PB     HC

A Good Man is Hard to Find.  1955.  PB    HC

The Habit of Being: Letters of Flannery O'Connor.  Edited by Sally Fitzgerald.  1969. PB

Introduction in
A Memoir of Mary Ann by the Dominican Nuns of Our Lady of Perpetual Help Home.  1961. HC

Mystery and Manners: Occasional Prose.  Edited by Sally Fitzgerald and Robert Fitzgerald.  1969. PB

The Presence of Grace, and other book reviews. Univ. of Georgia (Leo J. Zuber, compiler; Carter W. Martin, editor), 1983. HC

Three by Flannery O'Connor (The Violent Bear It Away, Everything That Rises Must Converge and Wise Blood).  1983.  PB          HC

The Violent Bear It Away.  1960.  PB

Wise Blood.  1952.  PB


Asals, Frederick. Flannery O'Connor: The Imagination of Extremity.  1982. 

Bacon, Jon Lance.
Flannery O'Connor and Cold War Culture.  1993.  HC

Balazy, Teresa.
Structural Patterns in Flannery O'Connor's Fiction.  1982. (Printed in Poland)??

Balee, Susan.
Flannery O'Connor: Literary Prophet of the South.  1994. 

Baumgaertner, Jill P.
Flannery O'Connor: A Proper Scaring.  1988.  PB

Beavon, Simon W.
Terrible Swift Sword : The Action of Grace in Three Stories by Flannery O'Connor.  1994.  PB

Bloom, Harold (editor).
Modern Critical Views: Flannery O'Connor.  1986. 

Bloom, Harold.
Flannery O'Connor : Comprehensive Research and Study Guide.  1999  HC

Brinkmeyer, Robert H.
The Art and Vision of Flannery O'Connor.  1989.  PB

Browning, Preston M., Jr.
Flannery O'Connor.  1974. 

Cash, Jean W. 
Flannery O'Connor : A Life.  2002.  HC

Clark, Beverly L. and Friedman, Melvin J. eds.
Critical essays on Flannery O'Connor.  1985.  HC

Coles, Robert.
Flannery O'Connor's South.  1980.  PB

Desmond, John.
Risen Sons: Flannery O'Connor's Vision of History.  1987.  HC

Di Renzo, Anthony.
American Gargoyles: Flannery O'Connor and the Medieval Grotesque.  1993.  PB

Drake, Robert.
Flannery O'Connor: A Critical Essay.  1966. 

Driggers, Stephen G.; Dunn Robert J.; and Gordon, Sarah E.
The Manuscripts of Flannery O'Connor at Georgia College.  1989.  HC

Driskell, Leon V. and Brittain, Joan T.
The Eternal Crossroads: The Art of Flannery O'Connor.  1971.

Eggenschwiler, David.
The Christian Humanism of Flannery O'Connor.  1972.

Enjolras, Laurence.
Flannery O'Connor's Characters.  1998.  HC

Farmer, David.
Flannery O'Connor: A Descriptive Bibliography.  1981. 

Feeley, Kathleen.
Flannery O'Connor: Voice of the Peacock.  1972, 1982. 

Fickett, Harold and Gilbert, Douglas R.
Flannery O'Connor: Images of Grace.  1986. 

Fitzgerald, Sally. 'Flannery mega-biography'(in progress).

Friedman, Melvin J. and Clark, Beverly Lyon.
Critical Essays on Flannery O'Connor.  1985. 

Friedman, Melvin J. and Lawson, Lewis A. (editors).
The Added Dimension: The Art and Mind of Flannery O'Connor.  1977.

Gentry, Marshall Bruce.
Flannery O'Connor's Religion of the Grotesque.  1986. 

Getz, Lorine M.
Flannery O'Connor: Her Life, Library and Book Reviews.  1980. PB HC

Getz, Lorine M.
Flannery O'Connor, Literary Theologian: The Habits and Discipline of Being.  1999.  HC

Getz, Lorine M.
Nature and Grace in Flannery O'Connor's Fiction.  1982.  HC

Giannone, Richard.
Flannery O'Connor and the Mystery of Love.  1989.  PB

Giannone, Richard.
Flannery O'Connor: Hermit Novelist.  2000.  HC

Golden, Robert E. and Sullivan, Mary C.
Flannery O'Connor and Caroline Gordon: A Reference Guide.  1977. 

Gordon, Sarah (editor).
The Flannery O'Connor Bulletin. Milledgeville, GA: Georgia College & State University. (1972-present) (JOURNAL)

Gordon Sarah (editor).
Flannery O'Connor: In Celebration of Genius.  2000. HC

Gordon, Sarah.
Flannery O'Connor: The Obedient Imagination.  2000.  HC

Grimshaw, James A., Jr.
The Flannery O'Connor Companion.  1981.

Hawkins, Peter S.
The Language of Grace: Flannery O'Connor, Walker Percy, and Iris Murdoch.  1983.   

Hendin, Josephine.
The World of Flannery O'Connor.  1970. 

Humphries, Jefferson.
The Otherness Within: Gnostic Readings in Marcel Proust, Flannery O'Connor, and Francois Villon.  1983. 

Hurley, Jennifer A., (editor).
Readings on Flannery O'Connor.  2001.  PB   HC

Hyman, Stanley Edgar.
Flannery O'Connor.  1966.

Johansen, Ruthann Knechel.
The Narrative Secret of Flannery O'Connor: The Trickster as Interpreter.  1994.  HC

Kessler, Edward.
Flannery O'Connor and the Language of Apocalypse.  1986. 

Kilcourse, George A.
Flannery O'Connor's Religious Imagination: A World With Everything Off Balance.  2001.  PB

Kinney, Arthur F.
Flannery O'Connor's Library: Resources of Being.  1985. 

Kreyling. Michael (editor).
New Essays on Wise Blood.  1995. PB HC

Lebeck, Sherry Lynn.
Paradox Lost and Paradox Regained : An Object Relations Analysis of Two Flannery O'Connor Mother-Child Dyads.  2000.  PB

McFarland, Dorothy Tuck.
Flannery O'Connor.  1976. 

McKenzie, Barbara.
Flannery O'Connor's Georgia.  1980. 

McMullen, Joanne Halleran.
Writing Against God: Language as Message in the Literature of Flannery O'Connor.  1996.  PB   HC

Magee, Rosemary.
Conversations with Flannery O'Connor.  1987.  PB   HC

Magee, Rosemary M.
Friendship and Sympathy: Communities of Southern Women Writers.  1992. PB HC

Martin, Carter W.
The True Country: Themes in the Fiction of Flannery O'Connor.  1968.

May, John R.
The Pruning Word: The Parables of Flannery O'Connor.  1976. 

Montgomery, Marion.
Why Flannery O'Connor Stayed Home.  1981. 

Muller, Gilbert H.
Nightmares and Visions: Flannery O'Connor and the Catholic Grotesque.  1972.

Orvell, Miles.
Flannery O'Connor: An Introduction.  1991.  PB

Orvell, Miles.
Invisible Parade: The Fiction of Flannery O'Connor.  1972.

Paulson, Suzanne Morrow.
Flannery O'Connor: A Study of the Short Fiction.  1988. HC

Prown, Katherine Hemple.
Revising Flannery O'Connor: Southern Literary Culture and the Problem.  2001.  HC

Quinn, John J., Editor.
Flannery O'Connor: A Memorial. 1995.  PB   HC
Ragen, Brian Abel.
A Wreck on the Road to Damascus: Innocence, Guilt, and Conversion in Flannery O'Connor.  1989. 

Rath, Sura P. and Shaw, Mary Neff.
Flannery O'Connor: New Perspectives.  1996.  PB

Schloss, Carol.
Flannery O'Connor's Dark Comedies: The Limits of Inference.  1980. 

Seel, Cynthia.
Ritual Performance in the Fiction of Flannery O'Connor.  2001.  HC

Spivey, Ted Ray.
Flannery O'Connor: The Woman, the Thinker, the Visionary.  1995.  PB

Stephens, Martha.
The Question of Flannery O'Connor.  1973. 

Walters, Dorothy.
Flannery O'Connor.  1973.  HC

Westarp, Karl-Heinz (compiler).
Flannery O'Connor: The Growing Craft: A Synoptic Variorium Edition of The Geranium, An Exile in the East, Getting Home, Judgement Day.  1992.  PB

Westarp, Karl Heinz and Gretlund, Jan Nordby (editors).
Realist of Distances: Flannery 'Connor Revisited.  1987.  PB

Westling, Louise.
Sacred Groves and Ravaged Gardens: The Fiction of Eudora Welty, Carson McCullars, and Flannery O'Connor.  1985.

Whitt, Margaret Earley.
Understanding Flannery O'Connor.  1995.  PB

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Flannery O’Connor appeared neat, straight-laced, cold-eyed-- not much fun. But in fact she knew from childhood how to stretch out a joke in her best deadpan and then shock. In a high school home economics course Flannery O’Connor and the rest of the class were assigned a sewing project. The expected product: clothing for the class member or a child. Sly, expressionless Flannery would not reveal what she was working on. She appeared to be doing little about it as the deadline approached. The day of reckoning came. The girls displayed their clothing on tables. Not Flannery however. She came into class trailed by a gray bantam rooster she addressed as Colonel Eggbert. The bird sported a lace-collared white pique coat with two buttons on the back. Flannery felt that was sufficiently bizarre, for she had left Colonel Eggbert’s dowdy pin-striped trousers at home.

Were her classmates surprised? Not those who had taken art class with her. There she had brought her gander Herman who modeled as patiently as a goose can while Flannery immortalized him in oil. When Herman was indisposed (he was a weird gander who liked to hatch eggs) she brought her rooster Hailie Selassie.

[Sources: Flannery O’Connor’s ‘The King of the Birds’ in
Mystery and Manners, 1969; Kathleen Feeley’s Flannery O’Connor: Voice of the Peacock , 1972, and the December 16, 1941, Peabody Palladium]

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Flannery wrote mainly within the fabric of the rural south of the 1950’s. The south was still ‘segregated’ (separate and unequal facilities for the races). Inevitably then she wrote with a background of racial injustice, but she also included religious hucksterism and pompous intellectualism. Naturally questions arise as to her fairness in dealing with these subjects. For example, did she depict African-Americans as poor workers and devious as a device to show the prejudice of a white bigot in the story or did it reflect in part her own prejudice? The same can be asked of her frequent use of derogatory slurs. Was it the artist? Or Flannery herself? Did she skewer Protestant Fundamentalists again and again out of her Catholic bias? Or were her outrageous religious fanatics actually her heroes? Did she admire intellectuals or did she mock their pride? Or both?

Are her intense stories misunderstood by some current readers? Most certainly. In 2002 a Catholic high school principal, speaking of her acclaimed prize-winning short story ‘Revelation’, “called the language used by O’Connor ‘offensive’ and ‘intolerant’ and said material in the story goes against everything the Catholic church stands for – racial tolerance, compassion and moral values.” This would seem to be an example of simple-minded political correctness (as well as inability to fathom literature).

Flannery once wrote that everyone she talked to went away thinking she agreed with them, because she couldn’t understand what they were saying and responded in vague terms. Her fiction has the opposite effect. It is as sharp as a razor yet because it is wrapped in Christian mystery it is misjudged by many of all stripes: whites, African-Americans, conservatives, liberals, the religious, the humanists. On the other hand many read her stories angered or highly amused by the folly of groups other than their own, never recognizing she also is hammering them.

Should she have been more transparent in her beliefs? Did she feel like C.S. Lewis that “any amount of theology can be smuggled into people’s minds” through enthralling stories? And, if so, is that fair? Or was obscurity necessary to get such material published? Flannery O’Connor’s warts if they exist lie in the realm of ideas. She was not vengeful. She did not indulge a temper. She did not abuse. She wasn’t proud. She wasn’t greedy. She was in fact frail and chronically disabled.

Houma Courier . March 3, 2002; The Habit of Being: Letters of Flannery O’Connor , 1979, edited by Sally Fitzgerald; and Letters of C. S. Lewis , edited by W. H.Lewis, 1966.]

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Flannery O’Connor was 20 years old in 1945 when she arrived on the temperate campus of the University of Iowa. Raised in the balmy south she would forever think of Iowa City as a sooty tubercular place. Always the sunny writing talent before Iowa she had been stunned there by what she did not know, what she had not read. The other graduate students seemed of another civilization. She did not know Kafka or Joyce. She did not even know William Faulkner. She may have had a degree from a southern college but here it seemed worth nothing. Maybe she couldn’t really write well either. Was it possible she would be denied entrance to their prestigious Writers’ Workshop?

She also learned women were seldom included in the workshop. So with considerable fear she entered the office of Paul Engle, distinguished poet and director of the writing program, for an interview. He was a husky man of about 40 with a smiley leprechaun face but Flannery was still uneasy as she sat down.

“I’m Flannery O’Connor, Mr. Engle,” she forced herself to say confidently. “I’m not a journalist but I’d like to enter the Writers’ Workshop.”

Or at least that was what she thought she had said. He blinked and stared at her uncomprehending. What had she said?

She repeated herself.

Paul Engle gulped. No smile now, just enormous discomfort. He didn’t understand a word. He took a deep breath. He looked like a man suppressing a vast squirm. “Would you write that down, Miss?”

Now Flannery could not believe her ears. ‘Write that down?’ screamed her unbelief. Write that down? Yes, he had actually asked her to write that down. It was just a bit insane, right out of her favorite, Edgar Allen Poe. She wanted to laugh. She wanted to scream. But she must not do either. So she wrote it down.

“‘My name is Flannery O’Connor,’” he read from her hasty note. “‘I’m not a journalist. Can I come to the Writer’s Workshop?’”

“Yes, Mr. Engle,” she said, wondering if that was jibberish to his ears too.

He took a deep breath. “Bring in some your writings, Miss O’Connor,” he said. “We’ll see.” He forced a smile on a face that had been crevassed by smiles.

She excused herself. Her great opportunity had come and had crushed her. Good Lord, would her writing be as indecipherable to these northern minds as her speech?

[Sources: Robert Giroux’s Introduction in
Flannery O’Connor: The Complete Stories, 1971.]]

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In December 1950 Flannery was hospitalized for what she believed was rheumatoid arthritis. Her treatments were injections of cortisone. In fact the doctor had told her mother she was dying of lupus, a disease whereby Flannery’s own immune system was attacking her own body. To suppress the immune system would arrest lupus but make Flannery vulnerable to other diseases. Symptoms were arthritic pain, fever and fatigue. All this was happening as Flannery tried to finish her first novel
Wise Blood.

In February 1952, now living on her mother’s dairy farm ‘Andalusia’, Flannery submitted the final manuscript for publication that spring. In her copy of Carl Jung’s
Modern Man in Search of a Soul she had underlined the passage that read “There are hardly any exceptions to the rule that a person must pay dearly for the divine gift of creative fire.” Oh, how she verified that ‘rule’. For that summer she learned the true nature of her illness. Her type of lupus was a death sentence; the same one given to her father who died of lupus at 40.

Never betraying a trace of self-pity in any of her letters she accepted her affliction and often in great pain or deadening fatigue continued to write her fiction. In one letter she quipped, “Greetings from my bed of affliction.” In another she joked about the number of blood transfusions needed for her to get going. Yet another said two transfusions had enabled her to work but her tongue was hanging on the typewriter keys. This light vein in her letters about what was really an excruciating illness continued for 12 years.

(But one month before she died in August 1964 she admitted the chilling “The wolf, I’m afraid, is inside tearing up the place.”)

The Habit of Being: Letters of Flannery O’Connor , 1979, edited by Sally Fitzgerald; and Kathleen Feeley’s Flannery O’Connor: Voice of the Peacock , 1972]

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