Sunday, July 6, 2014

(Re)Considering O'Connor

On July 4th Andalusia hosted a luncheon gathering for the National Endowment for the Humanities (NEH)  Summer Institute.  "Reconsidering Flannery O'Connor" runs at Georgia College July 1-30 and is the second such Summer Institute. The first NEH O'Connor Institute was held at Georgia College in 2007 and was by all accounts a rave success. Well, NEH folks did tell co-organizer, O'Connor scholar,  and Andalusia board member Bruce Gentry that the 2007 effort was a model for how NEH Summer Institutes should be done. Post-facto activities of 2007 participants reveal impressive numbers that advance O'Connor studies: three books, 24 peer-reviewed articles, and 63 conference presentations. 

The 2014 NEH scholars come from 14 different states. They number 25 and are fiction writers and poets, theologians and political scientists, and those involved in teaching English, communications, gender studies, disability studies, race studies, and film. I am told there are a number of musicians in the group and I have heard tell of beer and banjos on the porch at Bell Hall, their residence in the heart of GCSU's campus core. I can imagine the synergies among this group of smart people as they discuss their varied portals to O'Connor and how their own disciplines are informed by her writing. Well, these folks had Andalusia all to themselves on Independence Day and I could just see the wheels turning in each scholar's head as I had the pleasure of showing them the farm. Of course the Main House was the main attraction: we screened the film version of 'The Displaced Person" (shot at Andalusia in the mid-1970s); they took in the exhibitions in the Back Parlor and Cline Room; and of course were very interested in soaking up the fabric of where Flannery lived and wrote. 

Outside the weather was delightful. We enjoyed a luncheon in the shade of the back yard, and there were tours of the Cow Barn and the Hill House and folks were even treated to a behind-the-scenes look at the materials we have been rescuing from the Equipment Shed. Plows and seeders anyone? GCSU's Melanie Devore (Biological and Environmental Science) led a group on a ramble on our mile loop trail along Tobler Creek and the peafowl got lots of attention. It was a lovely afternoon for me as I got to chat with fans and share Andalusia with folks who were demonstrably taken with everything Flannery. For the scholars, my hope is that they got an introduction that will lead to repeat visits and indeed just readin' and rockin' on the porch as they churn and turn ideas around about Flannery, her writing, Andalusia, and their respective areas of study. 

For more information about the institute, please visit 

- Elizabeth Wylie, Executive Director
The Flannery O'Connor-Andalusia Foundation

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