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American Passages: A Literary SurveyUnit IndexAmerican Passages Home
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5. Masculine Heroes   

13. Southern Renaissance

•  Unit Overview
•  Using the Video
•  Authors
- William Faulkner
- Zora Neale Hurston
- Flannery O'Connor
- Katherine Anne Porter
- John Crowe Ransom
- Robert Penn Warren
- Eudora Welty
- Tennessee Williams
- Thomas Wolfe
- Richard Wright
- Suggested
•  Timeline
•  Activities

Authors: Flannery O'Connor (1925-1965)

Flannery O'Connor
[7303] Joe McTyre, Flannery O'Connor (c. 1955), courtesy of the Library of Congress [LC-USZ62-108013].

Flannery O'Connor Activities
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Mary Flannery O'Connor was born in Savannah, Georgia, the daughter of devout Catholic parents of good social standing. She was educated at parochial schools in Savannah until 1938, when her father was diagnosed with lupus, a degenerative blood disease of which he died two years later. During her father's last years, the O'Connor family moved to Milledgeville, Georgia, where O'Connor would spend most of the rest of her life living with her mother. After finishing high school, O'Connor earned a degree in social science from a local college. In 1945, on the recommendation of one of her professors, she earned a fellowship to attend the Writer's Workshop of the State University of Iowa (now the University of Iowa), where she met John Crowe Ransom. During the next two years, O'Connor honed her skills as one of America's most distinguished writers of short stories. Her first publication came with Geranium in 1946, followed by her first novel, Wise Blood, in 1952. The Habit of Being (1979) is a collection of O'Connor's letters.

Although she went on to publish a second novel, The Violent Bear It Away (1960), O'Connor is best known for her short stories, which are marked by their dark humor, masterful use of dialogue, and sometimes aggressive anti-sentimentalism. O'Connor's rural southern characters have been described as "repugnant, contemptible, and grotesque." But while deluded and deceitful characters like Tom T. Shiftlet in "The Life You Save May Be Your Own" or Hulga and Joy Hopewell in "Good Country People" are not necessarily likable, O'Connor deftly captures them in moments where they seem on the verge of realizing their deepest flaws. By showing the pain her characters feel as a result of their own shortcomings, O'Connor almost seems to suggest they deserve our pity as much as our scorn; yet she tends to leave them--and us--hanging just a moment before we can be sure.

O'Connor was diagnosed with lupus--the same disease that had killed her father--in December 1950. She continued to write for the next fourteen years and worked feverishly in the final weeks of her life to finish her second short-story collection, Everything That Rises Must Converge, before her death at the age of thirty-nine.

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