In the Bleeding Stinking Mad Shadow of Jesus: Flannery O’Connor and a Gospel of Subversion
Three of Flannery O’Connor’s iconic themes, namely that a) high spiritual realities are manifested in low material things (“grace through nature”); b) the life of the prophet and Christian believer is costly (“mercy... is a burning word”); c) God’s mercy and grace are often expressed in the form of mysterious, difficult, even foolish truths (“the strangeness of truth”) are related, respectively, to the transcendentals of beauty, goodness, and truth. This central claim forms the foundation for three subsequent and interrelated claims:
1. The three iconic themes represent a subversion of the transcendental categories of beauty, goodness, and truth, and they are incarnated in O’Connor’s fiction in the forms of the terrible beauty, violent goodness, and foolish truth of God.
2. O’Connor’s subversion of these categories provides a hermeneutical key for understanding her stories more fully, particularly from a theological perspective.
3. Catholic lay theologian and spiritual advisor, Baron Friedrich von Hügel, whose work O’Connor began reading some time before the fall of 1954, was a key influence for these themes with (what I am calling) his “three ideas”. Even though such themes are present in her fiction prior to her introduction to von Hügel, O’Connor nonetheless explicitly attributes these ideas to him and they gain theological weight and sophistication after 1954. Her enthusiasm for, and frequent references to, von Hügel’s work are unmatched when compared to the work of any other writer she read, and yet, von Hügel’s influence is all but neglected by O’Connor critics.
PHD in Theology
Flannery O'Connor, Criticism and interpretation, Theology in literature
Missions and World Christianity
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