Friday, August 1, 2014

A Monumental Life

Fifty years ago this week, Flannery O’Connor died in Milledgeville, her mother Regina nearby, ever devoted. 

Flannery O’Connor’s life was marked by her sharp intelligence and broad humor, even from her early years in Savannah: scrawled, misspelled, scathing book reviews written on Charlton Street; tedious piano lessons with Sister Mary Joseph, who turned her hearing aid off when Flannery played; dry bathtub readings with unwilling childhood friends as audience.

As an adult, when Flannery wrote her Iowa Prayer Journal, she didn’t realize that Andalusia would be God’s answer to her wish for purity (and publication!). Andalusia gave Flannery precious, abundant material.

The woods, if anything, she wrote, are the Christ symbol. 

Flannery O’Connor’s years at Andalusia—bed to desk to window and beyond—marked a life larger than most of us can dream.

I was roped and tied and resigned the way it is necessary to be resigned to death, O’Connor wrote, trying to explain to Maryat Lee the experience of returning to the South. I thought it would be the end of any creation, any writing... And as I told you by the fence, it was only the beginning. 

In her final days, Flannery hid unfinished writing beneath her hospital pillow.
In her final days, Flannery and Regina prayed. Together or separate—we’ll never know.

This August 3rd, let’s not think of the life lost too soon.  

Let’s celebrate Flannery O’Connor’s monumental life. 

-- Christine Flanagan 
Associate Professor of English at University of the Sciences in Philadelphia

Our guest blogger was among 24 scholars attending "Reconsidering Flannery O'Connor" a Summer Institute funded by the National Endowment for the Humanities and held at Georgia College in July 2014. For more information about the institute, please visit 


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