Date of Award
Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)
Dr. P. Travis Kroeker
A literary artist who has professed her religious understanding of reality provides an interesting challenge of interpretation. To what degree can the artist's religious views be considered relevant to the work of art, and how can the art be interpreted religiously without sacrificing its creative and artistic merits? While much of literary criticism seeks to distinguish the author (and the author's personal views) from his or her work, Flannery O'Connor's sacramental vision of reality is so embedded in her art that a separation between her religious understanding and her fiction leads to a misunderstanding of both. Instead of radically separating the artist's views from the artist's work, I have developed an interpretation of O'Connor that seeks to represent both her religious view of reality and her artistic exploration into the nature of reality through her fiction. This kind of analysis has two significant effects: it provides a corrective to many of the reductionistic accounts of the meaning and direction of O'Connor's religious vision, especially as it relates to her art; and it suggests an alternative approach to moral reflection through the medium of literature, whereby the concrete, embodied experiences of the characters illumine the nature of moral questions and choices. This thesis establishes, through a careful consideration of the prose writings of O'Connor, the inherent connection between her theology and her art. The intellectual tradition that influenced O'Connor's understanding of art and theology, from her reading of Thomas Aquinas and Jacques Maritain, serves to clarify the orientation of her creative art. O'Connor's theological artistry is most evident in her fiction, and my interpretation focuses on an exegesis of three of her major fictional works. The primary aim of this thesis is to elucidate O'Connor's sacramental vision and show how it is embodied in the fiction. Her prophetic vision, religious and artistic, is directed towards the drawing together of the physical and the spiritual, the concrete sensible world and the mysterious unseen reality that is eternally present.
Srigley, Susan M., "Prophetic vision and moral imagination in Flannery O'Connor's fiction" (2001). Open Access Dissertations and Theses. Paper 2318.