Flannery O’Connor

“The novelist with Christian concerns will find in modern life distortions which are repugnant to him, and his problem will be to make these appear as distortions to an audience which is used to seeing them as natural; and he may well be forced to take ever more violent means to get his vision across to this hostile audience. When you can assume that your audience holds the same beliefs you do, you can relax a little and use more normal ways of talking to it; when you have to assume that it does not, then you have to make your vision apparent by shock — to the hard of hearing you shout, and for the almost blind you draw large and startling figures.”

–Flannery O’Connor, 1925-1964

One comment on “Flannery O’Connor

  1. I’m guessing she was in something of a conflict with the Puritan notions; as she was a Catholic, and a Thomist, there were subtle things that would not mean much to someone, who is ignorant of the strains between American Puritanism and Catholicism. I’ve just read some shorts from her. As I remember, it wasn’t “preachy” but clearly moralistic.

    At the same time, from this quote it sounds like she is thinking more like a Preacher with literal concerns. I think maybe literature should get enough respect to be treated as Art (be it representational or something else), or else one may start to question “why would someone want to read this?”

    Let’s say you take a look at Bible and/or the Book of Mormon as literature. Especially the King James Bible contains some of the most beautiful passages written in English, so that many have read the Bible because of that. The translators of King James may have had some literal concerns, but the original was clearly poetic and beautiful, while certainly not easy to translate.

    A Mormon writer, O.S. Card has written all kinds of stories, and he’s also received some flak for depicting things whose existence many Mormons want to deny. Yet, he made it pretty clear he was not describing an ideal world.

    I think that religious orthodoxy can be a good way to ruin art with its rigid requirements of what kind of world you must describe. Think Jerry Falwell book burnings in the 1980s where Shakespeare’s and classic Greeks’ more moral plays were being cast on the pyre, let alone banned from the library.

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