FLANNERY O'CONNOR AND THE CHRIST-HAUNTED SOUTH

Ralph C. Wood, Author . Eerdmans $22 (272p) ISBN 978-0-8028-2117-1

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)

Reviewed on: 04/12/2004
Release date: 04/01/2004
Genre: Nonfiction
Paperback - 272 pages - 978-0-8028-2999-3
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