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Flannery O'Connor and the Christ-Haunted South Paperback – May 2, 2005


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Product Details

  • Paperback: 284 pages
  • Publisher: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Company; Paperback Ed edition (May 2, 2005)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0802829996
  • ISBN-13: 978-0802829993
  • Product Dimensions: 9.2 x 6.3 x 0.8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 14.4 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (11 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #534,574 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

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. Raised in Savannah and Milledgeville, Ga., O'Connor found herself a Catholic in a deeply Protestant South. But as Wood demonstrates, she was at home there, as she used her stories and novels to challenge what she saw as the sentimental piety of her own faith and the dullness of the Protestant liberalism of her time. Drawing on O'Connor's fiction, letters, book reviews and occasional writings, Wood examines key topics from race and the burden of Southern history to preaching and vocation. Although the depth of O'Connor's religious devotion reflected the sacramentalism of her Catholic faith, Wood ingeniously points out the debt she owed to the Bible-centered vision of Protestant theologian Karl Barth and to the images of fallenness that Reinhold Niebuhr offered in his famous work The Nature and Destiny of Man. Rather than reading thematically through O'Connor's entire oeuvre, Wood selects stories and episodes from novels that illustrate his thesis about O'Connor's concerns. Wood observes that most of O'Connor's stories end with a graceful scene in which her protagonists experience a revelatory moment, "at once disclosing the horror of sin but also overcoming the horror with hope." Although there is no end to the books on O'Connor, Wood's elegant exploration of her theological reading of Southern culture provides fresh insight into her relevance for us today.
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

Review

Choice
"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."

Mississippi Quarterly
"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."

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Customer Reviews

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His titles are the most unique ones that I've ever seen.
B. Godeaux
Ralph Wood's Flannery O'Connor and the Christ-Haunted South is a wonderful companion volume to the writings of a great southern writer.
Brent Wittmeier
I highly recommend this book if you want to more deeply understand the sometimes violent beauty of O'Connor's writing.
E. A. Hara

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

29 of 30 people found the following review helpful By Brent Wittmeier on April 19, 2005
Format: Hardcover
Ralph Wood's Flannery O'Connor and the Christ-Haunted South is a wonderful companion volume to the writings of a great southern writer.
O'Connor's fiction is best known for her short stories, chock full of southern prophets, racists, and embittered family relationships. This often offensive culture receives extraordinarily sympathetic and subtle treatment at her hands. In O'Connor's fiction, therefore, the 'backwoods' forms a biblical landscape in which the themes of salvation, sin and perdition. Fundamentalists, as in no other location, are treated with deserved respect and honor.
Ralph Woods might well be a figure in an O'Connor story. A Baptist southerner who received a divine call of his own, Woods encountered Catholic intellectuals during his years in college. Drawn by the orthodoxy of Catholic faith, as well as compelling writers such as O'Connor, Walker Percy, and J.R.R. Tolkien, Wood has become a unique creature: a Catholic Baptist Southern Literary Critic.
Wood's unique perspective enables him to uncover vistas in O'Connor's work which may be missed by other critics. Where else in the O'Connor critical literature might we see extensive quotations from Karl Barth, Hans Urs von Balthasar, and John Paul II? Wood argues compellingly for the cogency of O'Connor's Christ-haunted south, which despite obvious flaws, provides a challenge to northern superiority.
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11 of 14 people found the following review helpful By Gord Wilson VINE VOICE on May 28, 2006
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
I ordered this book because Amazon lets you read a page of it and I was immediately hooked. It seems to be a collection of essays, despite lines like "this chapter will attempt to show", and the essays and what they attempt to show vary greatly. I'm not sure who the audience is for this book, because it arguably belongs to the genre of literary criticism, usually aimed at a small and like-minded readership. There are quite a few books about Flannery O'Connor like that.

But this one is different for a few reasons. Lit crit books hardly ever make definite conclusions, at best advancing one of a number of competing theories, drawing it out or justifying it from the text, and supporting it with analysis and commentary.

In Wood's book, O'Connor plays the supporting role for his own theories, sometimes taking center stage and sometimes appearing only marginally. Wood also closes each chapter with an overkill of summing up, forcing the salient texts to his own conclusions (which makes me think the chapters were essays). These seem to me like typically Baptist views, although he makes O'Connor as a Catholic support them.

That would be grounds for me to dismiss the book were that all there was to it. However, Wood masterfully considers O'Connor in relation to her own "true country" of the South, immersing readers in the social millieu in which she wrote. He goes further, tracing the impact of the civil religion of the 'fifties, the odd-duck compromise that drained Protestant and Catholic theology alike, and which O'Connor detested. Like so many writers versed in that era, however, he assumes he can merely refer to Karl Barth and Rheinhold Niebuhr and everyone will know what he means.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful By E. A. Hara on January 5, 2014
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
I discovered Flannery O'Connor when some of the writers at the Catholic Writer's Guild told me that if I want to be a really good writer, O'Connor's works are writings with which I should become familiar. The first O'Connor story I read was A GOOD MAN IS HARD TO FIND and I simply did not "get it." This is because in order to understand O'Connor, one must look under the story to see the symbols and themes that she presented. O'Connor was a gifted writer (and I imagine a very interesting woman to know and have as a friend) but for the uninitiated or those who do not understand how to get the meat out of such writing, she can be very difficult to understand.

It wasn't until I read THE ARTIFICIAL N***R (Amazon considers this title to be pornographic, so I can't spell out the word) that it "clicked" for me and I got what she was attempting to portray. O'Connor shows us moments of God's grace hidden in ordinary and mundane events of life in a time and region which truly was "Christ-haunted."

Raplh Wood's work here is beautiful in that it opens O'Connor's work like a rose blooming. There is a real fragrance of grace which is easy to miss (I certainly did) that Wood presents to the reader. The book is a little daunting because Wood writes on a level with O'Connor's work, which means that if you are going to sit down and study this book, you are going to have to take it slowly and meditatively. The reward for such study, however, is worth the effort.

I highly recommend this book if you want to more deeply understand the sometimes violent beauty of O'Connor's writing.
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14 of 19 people found the following review helpful By Gregory on October 24, 2009
Format: Paperback
I snagged this book as soon as I heard about it, expecting that it would be all about Flannery O'Connor, and especially about the relationships between her, her work, and the Christ-haunted South in which she "moved, lived and had her being". The book did not utterly fail to meet my expectations, but it was a great disappointment. I got the feeling from reading through the book that the author really wanted to write about Karl Barth, and used an alleged Barth-O'Connor affinity as an excuse to launch onto long excursions into Barthdom, leaving poor Flannery all alone in Millegeville.
The best parts of the book were the occasional references to her letters, as collected in The Habit of Being. In fact, when I was about 80% of the way through Wood's book, I resolved to reread the letters collection (Sally Fitzgerald, editor).
This exercise confirmed my conviction that the best way to know Flannery O'Connor is to read her letters. This book from Mr. Wood doesn't add much, in my opinion.
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