Critical Insights: Short Fiction of Flannery O'Connor
As one of the prominent writers of the Southern Gothic genre in the mid-20th Century, Flannery O’Connor used short fiction to explore grotesque characters, Southern settings, questions of morality, and Roman Catholic themes. This volume examines and closely analyzes O’Connor’s best and least-known works, such as “A Good Man is Hard to Find,” Good Country People,” and “Temple of the Holy Ghost.”
Critical Insights: Short Fiction of Flannery O'Connor explores an author who had an immediate and enduring impact on the American literary dialogue. Her short fiction is routinely included in standard anthologies. These books often offer several stories by O'Connor, while reprinting only single stories by numerous other writers. Her continuing prominence implies that she is certainly one of the greatest writers of short fiction the United States has ever produced. This title places O'Connor's short stories in a variety of contexts and discusses them from many different points of view.
Each Critical Insights is divided into four sections:
An Introduction – The book and the author
The present volume seeks to place O’Connor’s short stories in a variety of contexts and to discuss them from many different points of view. The volume opens with a “lead” essay by Robert Donahoo that looks at O’Connor’s stories in light of the impact of World War II and the veterans who returned from that conflict as well as from the Korean War. Donahoo’s essay is then followed by a brief overview of O’Connor’s life by Kelhi D. DePace, who traces the development of O’Connor’s highly successful but all-too-brief career, which was cut short by a terminal illness.
The introduction is followed by four deliberately contextual pieces. The first sets O’Connor within the conservative political and cultural contexts of her times. That is followed by an essay surveying, in great detail, the initial critical responses to O’Connor’s short fiction. A discussion of the relatively neglected topic of Form in O'Connor's stories is the topic of the third essay in this section. Rounding off the Critical Context essays is on that compares and contrasts O'Connor's works with those of the African American writer Alice Walker.
The next section of this book offers a series of individual “critical perspectives” on O’Connor’s work. This section is organized in roughly chronological order, moving in general from the beginnings to the final stages of her career.
In this section, O'Connor's works are looked in within a literal-historical context, largely influence by other nineteenth-century writers. O'Connor's works are explored in the ways she treats the issue of Christian grace in her fiction, and how she uses silence and silences in her religiously inflected writings. Following this, is an article that sets O'Connor's writing and thinking within an ecological context that is also relevant to her deepest religious and spiritual concerns.
Switching topical focus of O'Connor's works, one author draws on the study of the author's manuscripts to deal with the topic of race. Another topic of focus is the author's essay about a severely afflicted and terminally ill little girl helps illuminate her treatment of suffering and moral responsibility in one of her stories. And finally, the volume closes with an essay that describes and paraphrases Flannery O'Connor's comments made in letters from 1979. These comments have never before been made available.
Each essay is 2,500-5,000 words in length and all essays conclude with a list of "Works Cited," along with endnotes.
- Chronology of Flannery O'Connor's Life
- Works by Flannery O'Connor
- About the Editor