This is an excellent and lucid study of O'Connor's theological and cultural convictions, with a study of the grotesque in her work as well as an elegant exploration of O'Connor as an engimatic Southern writer.
Flannery O'Connor was only the second twentieth-century writer (after William Faulkner) to have her work collected for the Library of America, the definitive edition of American authors. Fifty years after her death, O'Connor's fiction still retains its original power and pertinence. For those who know nothing of O'Connor and her work, this study by Ralph C. Wood offers one of the finest introductions available. For those looking to deepen their appreciation of this literary icon, it breaks important new ground.
Unique to Wood's approach is his concern to show how O'Connor's stories, novels, and essays impinge on America's cultural and ecclesial condition. He uses O'Connor's work as a window onto its own regional and religious ethos. Indeed, he argues here that O'Connor's fiction has lasting, even universal, significance precisely because it is rooted in the confessional witness of her Roman Catholicism and in the Christ-haunted character of the American South.
According to Wood, it is this O'Connor -- the believer and the Southerner -- who helps us at once to confront the hardest cultural questions and to propose the profoundest religious answers to them. His book is thus far more than a critical analysis of O'Connor's writing; in fact, it is principally devoted to cultural and theological criticism by way of O'Connor's searing insights into our time and place.
These are some of the engaging moral and religious questions that Wood explores: the role of religious fundamentalism in American culture and in relation to both Protestant liberalism and Roman Catholicism; the practice of racial slavery and its continuing legacy in the literature and religion of the South; the debate over Southern identity, especially whether it is a culture rooted in ancient or modern values; the place of preaching and the sacraments in secular society and dying Christendom; and the lure of nihilism in contemporary American culture.
Splendidly illuminating both O'Connor herself and the American mind, Wood's Flannery O'Connor and the Christ-Haunted South will inform and fascinate a wide range of readers, from lovers of literature to those seriously engaged with religious history, cultural analysis, or the American South.
University Professor of Theology and Literature at Baylor University, Waco, Texas. He serves as an editor-at-large for the Christian Century and as a member of the editorial board for the Flannery OConnor Review. His other books include The Comedy of Red
"In this excellent and lucid study of O'Connor's theological and cultural convictions, Wood relates the grotesque in O'Connor's work to her understanding that Christianity requires an all-or-nothing response. . . Anyone pursuing study of O'Connor's work will enjoy this book. Recommended."
The Virginia Quarterly Review
"An admirably lively study of that particular mix of fundamentalist fire and Southern riotousness underlying O'Connor's works of fiction. . . Without undue sermonizing, this book does double duty as a readable guide to the theological bases of sin and salvation in O'Connor's fiction, and as a tribute to how bravely and viscerally O'Connor's voice speaks to whatever -- or whoever -- swings in the backs of our twenty-first-century minds."
Publishers Weekly -- Starred Review
"Ralph Wood, one of our most astute critics of Christianity and literature, offers a splendid study of O'Connor, one of our most enigmatic Southern writers. . . Wood's elegant exploration of her theological reading of Southern culture provides fresh insight into her relevance for us today."
Southern Literary Journal
"Altogether engaging. It is good to be reminded just how philosophically and theologically aware O'Connor was."
Catholic Library World
"O'Connor has been the subject of several recent literary studies, but Wood merits special note for his insightful book. . . Highly recommended to all academic libraries and O'Connor fans."
"Not only is Wood's book cogently and passionately argued, it also demonstrates that there are still new insights to be gleaned from theological approaches to O'Connor -- the well isn't dry, after all."