Flannery O'Connor: The Coincidence of the Holy and the Demonic in O'Connor's Fiction by Preston M. Browning
When Flannery O'Connor began writing in the early 1950's, many reviewers assumed that she was little more than a talented female Erskine Caldwell, writing in the "Southern gothic" mode. And indeed her work was filled with freaks, one-armed con men, and pathological killers. By the time she died in 1964, serious readers of her fiction knew there was much more involved in her stories. What that "extra" was she called the "added dimension," that is, the spiritual depth which she believed was as an ineluctable part of human life. Her stories dramatize the ways in which the holy or the sacred break into human life with the result of shocking readers out of their spiritual somnolence using characters who appear to be possessed by the Devil and who commit acts of terrifying violence.
Browning bases his study of the works of O'Connor on the centrality of the yoking of opposites at the point where the opposites coincide, where violent crime and "attraction for the Holy" are held in tension, suggesting that out of this tension grew O'Connor's extraordinary creative power and unique vision. From this point of departure, Browning offers a detailed analysis of four O'Connor books: Wise Blood, A Good Man Is Hard to Find, The Violent Bear It Away, and Everything That Rises Must Converge.
Preston M. Browning Jr. received an MA in English from the University of North Carolina and a PhD in Religion and Literature from the University of Chicago. For 35 years he was a member of the English Department at the University of Illinois at Chicago, specializing in twentieth-century American fiction. He has published articles on Flannery O'Connor, Walker Percy, and Nathaniel Hawthorne, and wrote the play For Love or Country. His new book, Affection and Estrangement: A Southern Family Memoir is due in 2009. Preston lives in Ashfield, Massachusetts, where he and his wife, Ann, operate Wellspring House, a retreat for writers and artists.
Table of Contents
Preface to the New 2009 Edition ix
1 The Background: Life, Works, and Reputation 1
2 Wise Blood 25
3 A Good Man Is Hard to Find 40
4 The Violent Bear It Away 72
5 Everything That Rises Must Converge 99
Selected Bibliography 135
Appendix: "Parker's Back": Flannery O'Connor's Iconography of Salvation by Profanity 144