Nothing Is Dead

Since she died in 1964 at the age of 39, Flannery O’Connor has not receded from literary awareness nor from a larger consciousness we might call philosophical or spiritual or religious.  Her place in the literary canon is secure in part because her reputation rests on more than the mere acknowledgment of authorities, many of whom have done everything they could to undermine critical authority.  Her reputation is greater than that simply of an accomplished artist because she has appealed to (and sometimes appalled) people of various dispositions.  Though she was never a popular writer, she was vitally aware of popular culture and of vulgarity.  And though she insisted that her stories had to stand on their own merits, she was also vitally attuned to the Zeitgeist.  Her letters have shown how committed she was to her own education and to the study of literature, philosophy, and religion; her success has been, in great part, the fusion of these levels of consciousness in fictions that are at once tense and lucid, as well as violent and comic, in their articulation of the conflict of the spirit and the flesh.

Flannery O’Connor has inspired so much comment and analysis—some of it necessary, some of it academic, and some of it spiteful—that we may wonder whether further reflections are justified.  And it is just at this point that Henry Edmondson has registered his contribution. ...

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