Reconsidering Flannery O'Connor
Fresh approaches to the study of the works of the influential southern writer
Contributions by Lindsay Alexander, Alison Arant, Alicia Matheny Beeson, Eric Bennett, Gina Caison, Jordan Cofer, Doug Davis, Doreen Fowler, Marshall Bruce Gentry, Bruce Henderson, Monica C. Miller, William Murray, Carol Shloss, Alison Staudinger, and Rachel Watson
The National Endowment for the Humanities has funded two Summer Institutes titled "Reconsidering Flannery O’Connor," which invited scholars to rethink approaches to Flannery O’Connor’s work. Drawing largely on research that started as part of the 2014 NEH Institute, this collection shares its title and its mission. Featuring fourteen new essays, Reconsidering Flannery O’Connor disrupts a few commonplace assumptions of O’Connor studies while also circling back to some old questions that are due for new attention.
The volume opens with “New Methodologies,” which features theoretical approaches not typically associated with O’Connor’s fiction in order to gain new insights into her work. The second section, “New Contexts,” stretches expectations on literary genre, on popular archetypes in her stories, and on how we should interpret her work. The third section, lovingly called “Strange Bedfellows,” puts O’Connor in dialogue with overlooked or neglected conversation partners, while the final section, “O’Connor’s Legacy,” reconsiders her personal views on creative writing and her wishes regarding the handling of her estate upon death. With these final essays, the collection comes full circle, attesting to the hazards that come from overly relying on O’Connor’s interpretation of her own work but also from ignoring her views and desires. Through these reconsiderations, some of which draw on previously unpublished archival material, the collection attests to and promotes the vitality of scholarship on Flannery O’Connor.
"Alison Arant and Jordan Cofer’s collection of essays, Reconsidering Flannery O’Connor, stands as a major achievement, presenting a number of provocative new ways to interpret O’Connor and her work, mostly by younger scholars whose work here establishes them as important voices in O’Connor criticism. Impeccably edited, the volume is a treasure trove for both general readers and seasoned critics of O’Connor, the essays consistently invigorating and enlightening. "- Robert H. Brinkmeyer Jr., author of The Art and Vision of Flannery O’Connor and The Fourth Ghost: White Southern Writers and European Fascism, 1930–1950