Cover image for Flannery O'Connor and the Christ-haunted South
Flannery O'Connor and the Christ-haunted South
Wood, Ralph C.
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Publication Information:
Grand Rapids, Mich. : William B. Eerdmans Pub., [2004]

Physical Description:
xii, 272 pages ; 25 cm

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PS3565.C57 Z97 2004 Adult Non-Fiction Non-Fiction Area

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Wood argues that O'Connor's fiction has lasting, indeed universal, significance precisely because it is rooted in the confessional witness of her Roman Catholicism and in the Christ-haunted character of the American South.

Author Notes

Ralph C. Wood is University Professor of Theology and Literature at Baylor University, Waco, Texas

Reviews 2

Publisher's Weekly Review

Wood, one of our most astute critics of Christianity and literature, offers a splendid study of O'Connor, one of our most enigmatic Southern writers. Raised in Savannah and Milledgeville, Ga., O'Connor found herself a Catholic in a deeply Protestant South. But as Wood demonstrates, she was at home there, as she used her stories and novels to challenge what she saw as the sentimental piety of her own faith and the dullness of the Protestant liberalism of her time. Drawing on O'Connor's fiction, letters, book reviews and occasional writings, Wood examines key topics from race and the burden of Southern history to preaching and vocation. Although the depth of O'Connor's religious devotion reflected the sacramentalism of her Catholic faith, Wood ingeniously points out the debt she owed to the Bible-centered vision of Protestant theologian Karl Barth and to the images of fallenness that Reinhold Niebuhr offered in his famous work The Nature and Destiny of Man. Rather than reading thematically through O'Connor's entire oeuvre, Wood selects stories and episodes from novels that illustrate his thesis about O'Connor's concerns. Wood observes that most of O'Connor's stories end with a graceful scene in which her protagonists experience a revelatory moment, "at once disclosing the horror of sin but also overcoming the horror with hope." Although there is no end to the books on O'Connor, Wood's elegant exploration of her theological reading of Southern culture provides fresh insight into her relevance for us today. (May) (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved

Choice Review

In this excellent and lucid study of O'Connor's theological and cultural convictions, Wood (theology and literature, Baylor Univ.) relates the grotesque in O'Connor's work to her understanding that Christianity requires an all-or-nothing response. He points out that O'Connor, opposing the secular nihilism of contemporary US culture, focused not on Catholics but on southern Protestants because she saw in them the radicalism necessary in a death-oriented age. Though the South lost the Civil War, it "won the spiritual war by retaining its truest legacy ... the Bible-centered and Christ-haunted faith." Essays in such books as Flannery O'Connor: New Perspectives, ed. by Sura Rath and Mary Neff Shaw (CH, Sep'96), explain away the Christian issues O'Connor maintained were foundational in her work by focusing on subversive voices undercutting what the characters say. But Wood sees O'Connor as directly opposing the optimism and individualism of US culture, and his thesis is that "the South, while bearing the greatest historical guilt of any American region, offers the nation its largest religious hope ... the eschatological history of the risen Lord and his living embodiment in the church." Anyone pursuing study of O'Connor's work will enjoy this book. ^BSumming Up: Recommended. All collections; all levels. M. S. Stephenson University of Texas at Brownsville

Table of Contents

Prefacep. vii
Introductionp. 1
1. A Roman Catholic at Home in the Fundamentalist Southp. 13
2. The Burden of Southern History and the Presence of Eternity within Timep. 51
3. The Problem of the Color Line: Race and Religion in Flannery O'Connor's Southp. 93
4. The South as a Mannered and Mysteriously Redemptive Regionp. 121
5. Preaching as the Southern Protestant Sacramentp. 155
6. Demonic Nihilism: The Chief Moral Temptation of Modernityp. 179
7. Vocation: The Divine Summons to Drastic Witnessp. 217
8. Climbing into the Starry Field and Shouting Hallelujah: Flannery O'Connor's Vision of the World to Comep. 251
Index of Names and Subjectsp. 267
Index of Scripture Referencesp. 271