Hopkins Festival Lectures 1987 - 2017


Flannery O'Connor, Hopkins and Silence

Hank Edmondson

Hank Edmondson sees that Flannery O'Connor and Jesuit poet Gerard Manley Hopkins were fellow travelers in their belief in literature's ability to guide the reader into an experience of God's transcendence.

Hank T. Edmondson, 111, Georgia College & State University , GA., USA


Southern writer Flannery O'Connor and Jesuit poet Gerard Manley Hopkins, though a century apart, were fellow travelers in their belief in, and demonstration of, lit-erature's ability to guide the reader into an experience of God's transcendence. Both devout Catholics, they used their writing to reflect their conviction that God's grace was palpably evident in the created world. Hopkins' work is notable for his depiction of God's presence through the soaring beauty and profound tragedy of man's existence. O'Connor, though, demonstrates how God works through the ugliness of fallen man and man's mundane, sometimes, profane surroundings. In this particular essay, I draw upon another common theme in Hopkins' and O'Connor's work. Considering Hopkins' Ig-natian formation, and considering the Carmelite heritage to which both had access given their Catholic piety, Hopkins and O'Connor employed literature to underscore the essen-tial role of silence in the spiritual life of the believer.

First, though, as a matter of human interest, it is worth noting the several instances in which O'Connor referred to Gerard Manley Hopkins. Flannery O'Connor on Gerard Manley Hopkins In Flannery O'Connor's published correspondence, there is infrequent mention of Hopkins, but those citations are obviously deeply felt. While she seems to have admired his style, it is Hopkins' spiritual impact on O'Connor that is conspicuous. For example, at one stage of her life she was having trouble sleeping because of treatments for her physi-cal ailment of disseminated lupus erythematosus, the auto-immune disease that took her life at the untimely age of thirty-nine. In that period of troubled rest, O'Connor alluded to Hopkins' inspiring poem "The Blessed Virgin Compared to the Air We Breathe." The business of broken sleep is interesting but the business of sleep generally is interesting. I once did without it almost all the time for several weeks. I had high fever and was taking cortisone in big doses, which prevents you from sleeping. I was starving to go to sleep.

Since then I have come to think of sleep as metaphorically connected with the mother of God. Hopkins said she was the air we breathe, but I have come to realize her most in the gift of going to sleep. Life without her would be equivalent to me to life without sleep and as she contained Christ for a time, she seems to contain our life in sleep for a time so that we are able to wake up in peace. On another occasion, O'Connor wrote to a friend, recommending Hopkins practical defi-nition of charity. She asked, "Do you know the Hopkins-Bridges correspondence? [Hop-kins' friend Robert] Bridges wrote Hopkins at one point and asked him how he could possibly learn to believe, expecting, I suppose, a metaphysical answer. Hopkins only said, 'Give alms.'" O'Connor believed that such a practice of charity cuts through intel-lectual rationalization. She wrote to a young skeptic, "[Hopkins] was trying to say to Bridges that God is to be experienced in Charity (in the sense of love for the divine image in human beings). Don't get so entangled with intellectual difficulties that you fail to look for God in this way." O'Connor's most touching quote from Hopkins came in a letter of June 19, 1964 from her hospital bed. At this point, O'Connor's health was precarious. She would re-quest Extreme Unction three weeks later and then die the following month of kidney fail-ure, one of the many ailments she suffered because of her condition of lupus. In this let-ter, she recalls lines from Hopkins' poem about human mortality, "Spring and Fall: to a Young Child." Her prose is slightly disjointed, a characteristic of some of her late corre-spondence as her health was failing and her suffering intense. She wrote to a friend, I go home tomorrow, praise the Lord. I'll have to stay in bed, even eat in bed for a while, but home is home. The mail lady just arrived (they call them Pink Ladies here-they wear pink smocks & work 2 days a week voluntarily in hospitals - most society women with not enough to do at home - good souls really) with 3 letters from you which I was cheered to get. I do enjoy your letters. They are much more in-teresting than anything I have the energy to cook up in return. I realize I don't even answer half your questions. It is not lack of interest but lack of energy-mental & physical right now. I have always been a terrible conversationalist. I like to be around people who talk all the time because when somebody else is do-ing it. I don't have to. . .

The Habit of Perfection

In Hopkins's early poem, "The Habit of Perfection," he describes the process by which the five senses are suppressed in the interest of a deeper awareness of the tran-scendent God. This sensory self-denial, in itself a kind of "poverty," invites in turn an experience of voluntary Silence. Hopkins writes,

ELECTED Silence, sing to me
And beat upon my whorlèd ear, . . .

Silence, as Hopkins personifies it, is entreated to perform a paradoxical task. Hopkins continues,

Pipe me to pastures still and be
The music that I care to hear.
Shape nothing, lips; be lovely-dumb:
It is the shut, the curfew sent
From there where all surrenders come
Which only makes you eloquent.

After dealing in this way with the sense of hearing, Hopkins' then addresses the other senses, exhorting them to aban-don their given function in the interest of a more important experience. He turns to the faculty of sight:

Be shellèd, eyes, with double dark
And find the uncreated light:
This ruck and reel which you remark
Coils, keeps, and teases simple sight.

Then taste is commanded to abandon the sweetness of wine so as to enjoy a different kind of divine feast

Palate, the hutch of tasty lust,
Desire not to be rinsed with wine:
The can must be so sweet, the crust
So fresh that come in fasts divine!

The sense of smell is next in line.

Nostrils, your careless breath that spend
Upon the stir and keep of pride,
What relish shall the censers send
Along the sanctuary side!

Finally, both hands and feet must anticipate a nobler pursuit than the physical comfort they might ordinarily enjoy.

This process of self-forgetfulness and penury of the senses aids the soul's communion with God.

And, Poverty, be thou the bride
And now the marriage feast begun,
And lily-coloured clothes provide
Your spouse not laboured-at nor spun.

It is a similar experience, moreover, that Flannery O'Connor has in mind in her first and best novel, Wise Blood, when her charac-ter Hazel Motes undergoes repentance and penance. His conversion comes after his futile attempt to abandon God in a desperate nihilistic sacrilege, which he commits by attempt-ing to proselytize those around him into his self-proclaimed "Church of Jesus Christ-without Christ." Before turning to that story, however, it is instructive to note that O'Connor considered herself a prophet for the modern age; and, she was at her most artistic when she employed the device of grotesqueness to demand the attention of an apathetic world. Prophecy and the Grotesque O'Connor once shared with a friend her excitement that she had made a "lucky find" in St. Thomas Aquinas' sections of the Summa and the De Veritate on prophecy in which he explained that the "prophetic vision is dependent on the imagination of the prophet" (HB, 367).

O'Connor's excitement undoubtedly stemmed from the self-recognition that she had something to say of a prophetic nature to the world; and, that she possessed the imagination to do so aesthetically. Indeed, in her correspondence to her friend Maryat Lee, she often signed her letters with variations of the name of Tarwater, the prophet in her second novel, The Violent Bear It Away. Despite no dramatic vision or revelations, she was inspired in her craft insofar as she believed she was invested with the opportunity of serving as a kind of "prophet." In this role, the writer is one who speaks forth truth to his society, not only basing his prophecy on the truth as it is needed and relevant to the reader, but also employing the faculty of the imagination in the service of the prophetic act.

O'Connor employs the technique of grotesqueness to get the attention of an audience moderately literate and morally dull, satisfied with vague discussion and lazy thinking about important matters. She writes, "[To] the hard of hearing, you shout, and for the al-most blind you draw large and startling figures" (CW, 806). She also writes, "I can't see any way to write as a Catholic unless you make what you write brutal, since now there aren't any mutually understood words above a certain level." O'Connor's mother once put ruffled curtains in her daughter's room while the writer was away lecturing at Notre Dame University. Upon returning, O'Connor warned her "[T]he curtains have to go, lest they ruin my prose." Walker Percy notes that the traditional religious vocabulary has been rendered meaningless by overuse; hence, as soon as the writer uses the words "sal-vation or redemption . . . the jig is up."

Thus, O'Connor strains for new and alarming ways to get the Christian message across to her audience. For example, in her short story, The River, and in her second novel The Violent Bear It Away, drowning comes to sym-bolize baptism, because, as Walker Percy has noted, "How else can one possibly write of a baptism as an event of immense significance when baptism is already accepted but ac-cepted by and large as a minor tribal rite somewhat secondary to taking the kids to see Santa at the department store?"

Wise Blood

In reference to her novels, O'Connor confessed, " . . . I do prefer to go where few choose to follow" (HB, 371). Her first novel, Wise Blood, is an unusual combination of the grotesque, the comical and the philosophical. The novel is an allegory in which the story's protagonist Hazel Motes (usually shortened to Haze) illustrates the dangerous pursuit of nihilism through the rejection of God and traditional morality. The other char-acters of the story represent, each in their turn, important elements of this ill-advised en-deavor. O'Connor explains this manner of writing fiction when she writes, "[A]ny char-acter in a serious novel is supposed to carry a burden of meaning larger than himself" (MM, 167). Since the novel deals with such a disturbing phenomenon as the "death of God," it should not be surprising if the novel is troubling as well. The author wrote a friend, "I have finished my opus nauseous and expect it to be out one of these days. The name will be Wise Blood" (HB, 24). One reviewer noted that "the best of [O'Connor's] work sounded like the Old Testa-ment would sound if it were being written today" (HB, 109). If that is so, Wise Blood most resembles the story of Jonah, an allegory teaching the consequences of man's flight from God: if one should flee from God he will end up right where he began but only after spending three days, as it were, in the dark and dangerous belly of the whale. It is not surprising, then, that O'Connor explained that Wise Blood is "a comic novel about a Christian malgré lui" (CW, 1265). A malgré lui is someone who does that which he is most trying to avoid, despite his best attempts to the contrary. So, too, Hazel Motes con-cludes his life by surrendering to the thing he has put all of his energy into destroying. Wise Blood adapts the timeless notion of a malgré lui to the modern age by adding the contemporary innovation of nihilism. Hazel Motes' flight from God is expressed through his rank nihilistic pursuit and his manner of running from God is to deny his existence and to rush headlong into a defiant belief in "nothing." His arrogance consists of his as-sertion that he can believe in nothing and still avoid evil. O'Connor underscores Motes' shrill insistence that he does not believe in God, all the while he is being relentlessly drawn toward a final and costly encounter with Him. Motes illustrates, as Eric Voegelin explained, that man lives in an inescapable "tension" with the Divine, a tension that pulls all men toward himself. Although O'Connor was troubled by some of the reviews of this novel, she was grate-ful for one reviewer, Brainard Cheney, and she wrote him to express her appreciation.

O'Connor's gratefulness sparked a friendship between the author and Cheney and his wife that continued until O'Connor's death. Cheney wrote that " . . . no wiser blood [has] brooded and beat over the meaning of the grim rupture in our social fabric than that of this twenty-six year old Georgia girl in this, her first novel." The review continued, Wise Blood is about the persistent craving of the soul. . . . It is about man's inescapable need of his fearful, if blind, search for salvation. . . . Didactically stated her story seems over-simple: Hazel Motes, an hysterical fringe preacher, tries to found a church "Without Christ" and, progressively preaching nihilism, negates his way back to the cross. Mrs. Flood We enter this story after the protagonist Hazel Motes has abandoned his fight with God and has voluntarily blinded himself so that he might better "see" God. He has rented a room in a boarding house and his landlady, Mrs. Flood, offers the reader a unique per-spective on Haze's pilgrimage. Mrs. represents all those in need of "The Flood" of Gene-sis, chapters 6-9 in which the incessant forty-day rain wiped out all of mankind except Noah and his family.

Thus, this woman stands for all of those in need of judgment and redemption-the entire human race. Haze now becomes a kind of pioneer who is emerg-ing from his long dark night of nihilism and is, by the sheer grace of God and the effort of his penance, walking the long slow road of reconciliation with the Divine. The reader should identify with Mrs. Flood, not only in her self-righteous complacency, but also in the incipient and unsettling recognition of her spiritual poverty. Haze, albeit in comic, exaggerated fashion, demonstrates the difficult path of return to God. Mrs. Flood is a narrow, self-righteous woman who will not hesitate to take pecuniary advantage of a tenant, even a blind one. Yet the appearance of the enigmatic Hazel Motes unsettles her. Her priggish self-assurance begins to slip away, because she comes to un-derstand that the sightless Hazel sees something she does not. Although "the mess he had made in his eye sockets" repulses her, she finds herself involuntarily "leaning forward, staring into his face as if she expected to see something she hadn't seen before" (CW, 120).

At first her cynicism disposes her to think, as she habitually did, that if she doesn't understand something, she is probably being cheated in some way, and "what provoked her most was the thought that there might be something valuable hidden near her, some-thing she couldn't see" (CW, 120). The irony is that she is correct, although her estima-tion of value is a material calculation, whereas the wealth close at hand belongs to the province of the soul. She notices that "[h]is face had a peculiar pushing look as if it were going forward after something it could just distinguish in the distance" (CW, 120-121).

He seems to be "straining toward something." This perplexes and unsettles his landlady because "she knew he was totally blind" (CW, 121). Although Hazel has no vision, she is the one who is confounded. She didn't understand it. She didn't like the thought that something was being put over her head. She liked the clear light of day. She liked to see things. (CW, 123). She wonders:How would he know if time was going backwards or forwards or if he was going with it?" (CW, 123). Hazel is indifferent to everything around him. He always appears preoccupied, eating without comment whatever Mrs. Flood serves. He is equally indifferent to her: he sits for hours on the front porch with Mrs. Flood, yet barely ac-knowledges her compulsive chatter. Mrs. Flood's problem is that she can only "see" what is material; she has no sight for the spiritual. Hazel, by this time, does see beyond the material and this is what she doesn't understand but cannot dismiss. The landlady begins to imagine that Hazel sees no more than "a pinpoint of light" (CW, 123). At first she interprets this as indicative of his desperate blind state, but this image persists and takes on a new meaning for her as if there is something in the distance to which he has access but she does not. Leisure and Contemplation Before his conversion and self-mutilation, the unconverted and defiant Hazel had in-sisted that it "was not right to believe anything you couldn't see or hold in your hands or test with your teeth" (CW, 116).

Before his conversion, Haze Motes had also preached that there was no reality beyond the material and he encouraged his scattered listeners to limit their vision to the most material object of all, their own bodies. In this instance, O'Connor reveals her prescience as she anticipates the cult of the human body that has marked the turn of the millennium. Haze argues for radical materialism in contrast to the Christian doctrines of sin, redemption, judgment, and eternal life: "Nothing outside you can give you a place," he said. "You needn't to look at the sky be-cause it's not going to open up and show no place behind it . . . In yourself right now is all the place you've got. If there was a Fall, look there, if there was a Redemption, look there, and if you expect any Judgment, look there, because they all three will have to be in your time and your body and where in your time and your body can they be? (CW, 93) The repentant Haze has begun to reject the material by his indifference to any money beyond his immediate needs. When Mrs. Flood finds his leftover cash in the wastebasket she asks "'How did you make that mistake?'" He explains that it was no mistake: "'It was left over,' he said. 'I didn't need it (CW, 124).'" By contrast, "When she found a stream of wealth, she followed it to its source and before long, it was not distinguishable from her own" (CW, 120). Mrs. Flood's attitude toward the leisure that Haze's blindness affords differs mark-edly from Haze's use of his free time. Whereas he finds in it an opportunity to sit quietly, if Mrs. Flood had been blind, "she would have sat by the radio all day, eating cake and ice cream, and soaking her feet" (CW, 122).

In O'Connor's economical writing, she has in this short passage suggested the contemporary misuse of leisure time. Classical phi-losophy divides human activity into "work," "play," and "leisure," but this conception of leisure is largely unknown today. Whereas we equate it with play or recreation, the word's etymology reveals the ancient teaching: the Greek word is schole, and like our ideal of liberal education, leisure is the time spent in personal improvement-moral, in-tellectual, and spiritual. Work is performed to provide opportunity for leisure and we en-gage in play for the sake of relief from work. O'Connor marked in her edition of one of Eric Voegelin's works a passage that begins, "Leisure is not playtime." For that reason, Voegelin continues, "[e]ducation must . . . equip a man with knowledge and train him in intellectual pursuits," for leisure is the time to be spent in activities that serve no other end than to shape the "man of excellence." But Mrs. Flood's hypothetical use of leisure symbolizes the worst in the experience of contemporary men and women. Her first priority would be to sit by the radio.

In this, O'Connor points to the Western infatuation with passive entertainment, a trend identified in post-war Europe and America by Josef Pieper in his important work Leisure, the Basis of Culture, and a phenomenon incisively diagnosed by Neil Postman in his precocious Amusing Ourselves to Death: Public Discourse in the Age of Show Business. Such a passive attitude to free time and entertainment promotes Mrs. Flood's second and third priorities, interests that cater only to her sensuality- to eat, and soak her feet. Pascal notes that man's greatest problem is his inability to use his free time quietly and reflectively. He writes, "I have discovered that all the unhappiness of men arises from one single fact, that they cannot stay quietly in their own chamber." Instead, Pascal observes, a man must surround himself with all sorts of "diversions" just to keep at arm's length the opportunity for reflection because he is likely to find such meditative opportu-nities horribly depressing when confronted with the truth of his condition. In the O'Connor short story "Judgment Day," Tanner's daughter is conflicted between her duty to her aged father, and the allure of a more superficial, less thoughtful life. She succumbs to the latter when she admonishes the old man that his trouble is sitting "'in front of that window all the time where there's nothing to look out at.'" In her diagnosis, he needs "'some inspiration and an outlet,'" and so she advises, "'If you would let me pull your chair around to look at the TV, you would quit thinking about morbid stuff, and death and hell and judgment'" (CW, 685-6).

After Haze blinds himself, Mrs. Flood "observed his habits carefully." Despite the decline in his health, "he walked out every day." From downstairs, she could tell that he "got up early in the morning and walked in his room," and "then he went out and walked before breakfast and after breakfast, he went out again and walked until midday." She determines by following him that he "knew the four or five blocks around the house and he didn't go any farther than those." She thinks, "He could have been dead and get all he got out of life but the exercise" (CW, 122-3). Mrs. Flood concludes, "He might as well be one of them monks," living in a "monkery." O'Connor observes, "She didn't understand it" (CW, 123). Indeed she did not and she urges him to do something, learn to strum a guitar, or take up preaching again. Mrs. Flood is certain that Haze is "out of connection" with the "real world." Of course, in a sense he is. Engagement in leisure, in the classical sense, may at times look like idleness.

Because he rarely speaks, Mrs. Flood is often annoyed at him. He mystifies her. She would not be able to understand Pieper's explanation that, "Leisure is a form of silence, of that silence which is the prerequisite of the apprehension of reality: only the silent hear and those who do not remain silent do not hear." Leisure, Pieper continues, is antithetical to an anx-ious grasping for control as "there is a certain serenity in leisure." That serenity springs precisely from our inability to understand, from our recognition of the mysterious nature of the universe; it springs from the courage of deep confidence, so that we are content to let things take their course. Darkness The "pinpoint of light" that Haze follows and that Mrs. Flood finds so alluring, repre-sents the beginning of contemplation, a state to which Haze arrives through the penance that facilitates redemptive grace. O'Connor once tried to straighten out her former phi-losophy professor on the meaning of Wise Blood: In light of this emphasis upon contemplation, it is fair to ask if O'Connor herself pur-sued some measure of contemplative practice. It appears that she did. She prized the spiritual teachings of the great Spanish contemplatives St. John of the Cross and St. Teresa of Avila and she offered the teaching of both as an antidote to "false mysticism" (HB, 113). In respect to the teaching authority of her Church, she explains, "For me a dogma is only a gateway to contemplation and is an instrument of freedom and not of re-striction." O'Connor's contemplative opportunity, moreover, was most likely the Eucha-rist, which she attended often, even though it may have been difficult physically to do so.

For St. John of the Cross, the Eucharist was "all his glory, all his happiness, and for him far surpassed all the things of the earth." Likewise, O'Connor revealed in correspon-dence that the Eucharist "is the center of existence for me; all the rest of life is expend-able" (HB, 125). In her review of his Meditations Before Mass, she includes his contention that "the words spoken at the consecration are 'the equals of those which once brought the universe into existence.'" Since O'Connor was familiar with St. John's teaching, and recommended it to friends, it is reasonable to suppose the mystic's metaphors could be in the background of her narrative of Hazel Motes. She also suggests an intense interest in St. John when she calls Edith Stein, the brilliant philosopher and scholar of the Spanish mystic, one of "the two 20th-century women who interest me most" (HB, 93). In her review of Stein's book on St. John of the Cross The Science of the Cross O'Connor describes the saint in a manner that suggests the difficulty Mrs. Flood experiences in trying to understand Haze: "As for St. John of the Cross, his life was lived so very near eternal realities that it seems an impossible life to understand." St. John of the Cross writes a great deal about darkness. He describes the journey to God as consisting of two important experiences, the "dark night of the senses" and the "dark night of the soul." This "first night of purgation," concerns the sensory part of the soul. He describes it poetically in the first stanza of his famous "Dark Night of the Soul," in which his "senses" have been darkened, and his "house," that is his soul, is "stilled.

One dark night,
Fired with love's urgent longings
-ah, the sheer grace!-
I went out unseen,
My house being now all stilled.

This darkness is not an end in itself, but a beginning of the process of contemplation, de-scribed symbolically as his "secret ladder." The second darkness is that which facilitates a more intimate encounter with the divine presence. It is described in the second stanza of his poem:

In darkness and secure,
By the secret ladder, disguised,
-ah, the sheer grace!-
in darkness and concealment,
my house being now all stilled.

Since the first night is a kind of "point of departure," it also involves the voluntary deprivation of the craving "for worldly possessions." It is not the possessions themselves that must be forsaken; it is the distracting materialistic appetite, the longing for such pos-sessions that must be put away. Accordingly, St. John refers to "the denudation of the soul's appetites and gratifications," a process suggested by Haze Motes when he discards his leftover cash and pursues a harsh penance by walking on broken glass and wearing barbed wire. It is important to reiterate at this point the significance of O'Connor's use of the gro-tesque. The reader must neither be distracted by the repulsive nature of Haze's mystical pursuits, nor even by his self-mutilation. These extremes are O'Connor's literary tech-nique, meant to jolt the reader and to capture his attention. If the reader is so offended by these events so as to turn away from the novel, he will have allowed himself to be "scan-dalized;" that is, he will have been ensnared or "tripped up" before reaching the under-standing to which O'Connor wishes to lead him. St. John of the Cross and Blindness St. John even offers a fascinating discussion of the concept of spiritual "blindness," speaking of two types of blindness. The first is a "spiritual blindness" imposed by inordi-nate sensuality that leaves one separated from God. He laments, "Oh, if people but knew what a treasure of divine light this blindness caused by their affections and appetites takes from them and the number of misfortunes and evils these appetites occasion each day when left unmortified!" This concern arises from his belief that " . . . these appetites weaken and blind." We have felt our way along the wall as though blind, we have groped as if without eyes, and our blindness has reached the point that we stumble along in broad daylight as though walking in the dark. For this is a characteristic of those who are blinded by their appetites; when they are in the midst of the truth and of what is suitable for them, they no more see it than if they were in the dark."

Faith, manifestly, is a dark night for souls, but in this way it gives them light. The more darkness it brings on them, the more light it sheds. For by blinding, it illumines them, ac-cording to those words of Isaiah that if you do not believe you will not understand; that is, you will not have light." This blindness comes about because one's journey toward God eventually requires that faith-as well as hope and charity-have no other support than God himself. This auster-ity of belief leads one into an "abyss of faith." To advance in this spiritual manner means that at times those who long for God must, like Hazel Motes, "darken and blind them-selves." At first, Mrs. Flood cannot imagine, "[W]hat possible reason could a person have for wanting to destroy their sight?" "Why? She asked, staring at him." After a while he said, "If there's no bottom in your eyes, they hold more." The landlady stared for a long time, seeing nothing at all. (CW, 126) As she admits to herself that she is in the dusk of her own life, she concludes that she should ally herself with Haze because, "If she was going to be blind when she was dead, who better to guide her than a blind man?" (CW, 130). A stanza from one of St. John's lesser-known poems might have provided a fitting epitaph for Haze Motes.

And though I suffer darknesses
In this mortal life,
That is not so hard a thing;
For even if I have no light
I have the life of heaven.
For the blinder love is
The more it gives such life,
Holding the soul surrendered,
Living without light in darkness.


Both Hopkins and O'Connor, inspired by the practice of Ignatian retreat silence and the Carmelite mysticism of St. John of the Cross, offer an alternative to a generation of men and women suffering from sensory overload. In a world filled with the inescap-able noise of televisions in airports and doctor's offices, the ever-present rings of cell phone, and the ubiquitous presence of digitally recorded music-these two literary artists recommend silence. Such silence though, only comes at a price, which is the willful de-nial of the superficial gratification of the senses as a preparation for the spiritual com-munion that comes in contemplation.


Some material in this essay is taken from Henry T. Edmondson III, Return to Good and Evil: Flannery O'Connor's Response to Nihilism, (Lanham, Maryland: Lexington Books, 2002).

1. Gerard Manley Hopkins, Gerard Manley Hopkins: The Major Works, (Oxford: Oxford University Press), p. 158.

2. Flannery O'Connor, The Habit of Being: The Letters of Flannery O'Connor, (New York: Farrar, Straus, and Giroux, 1979), To "A" October 20, 1955, p. 112.

3. idem, To William Sessions, July 8, 1956, p. 164; To Alfred Korn, May 30, 1962,
pp. 76-77.

4. idem, To Janet McKane, June 19, 1964, pp. 585 - 86; Gerard Manley Hopkins: The Major Works, (Oxford: Oxford University Press),

5. In her copy of the Summa, O'Connor has annotated the section that associates prophecy with the imagination. It is Question 12, Article 11, "Reply Obj" Introduction to St. Thomas Aquinas. Anton C. Pegis, ed. (New York: The Modern Library, 1948), p. 92. She also owned a three volume edition of De veritate and she seems to have had in mind Article IV "Is Some Natural Disposition Needed For Prophecy," "Answers to Difficulties," Art. 2. St. Thomas Aquinas, Truth (Chicago: Henry Regnery Company, 1953), p. 127.

6. Sarah Gordon, "Maryat and Julian and the 'not so bloodless revolution,'" Flannery O'Connor Review (Volume 21, 1992), pp. 25 - 36.

7. Maryat Lee, "Flannery, 1957," The Flannery O'Connor Bulletin, 5 (Autumn, 1976), p. 49.

8. Review of The Phenomenon of Man, by P. Teilhard de Chardin, in The American Scholar, Fall, 1961, in Flannery O'Connor: Her Life, Library and Book Reviews, Lorine M. Getz (New York: The Edwin Mellen Press, 1980), p. 149.

9. With this sentiment in mind, Henry King Stanford wrote to thank O'Connor for her appearance at his university, Birmingham-Southern, on November 25, 1958. He quipped, "All of us here are grateful to you for taking time out to speak to our students and budding (?) writers. You may have done literature a great service if you nipped some of them in the bud" (December 5, 1958).

10. The Correspondence of Flannery O'Connor and the Brainard Cheneys, C. Ralph Stephens, Ed. (Jackson: The University Press of Mississippi, 1986), p. 6.

11. Maryat Lee, "Flannery, 1957," The Flannery O'Connor Bulletin 5 (Autumn, 1976), p. 54.

12. Walker Percy, Conversations with Walker Percy, Lewis A. Lawson and Victor A. Kramer (Jackson: University Press of Mississippi, 1985), p. 214.

13. Walker Percy, The Message in the Bottle (New York: Farrar, Straus & Giroux, 1954), p. 118.

14. To be sure, O'Connor explicitly likens two of her other characters to Jonah as well, Tarwater (CW, 462) and Parker (CW, 672). Although I am not aware of such an explicit reference linking Hazel Motes to Jonah, he is cast in a similar role. It is worth noting Romano Guardini's proposal that at the end of the modern age the Old Testament will take on a new significance. (Roman Guardini, The End of the Modern World (Wilmington, Delaware: ISI Books, 1998), pp. 107- 108.

15. Eric Voegelin, The Ecumenic Age, Vol. IV of Order and History (Baton Rouge: Louisiana State University Press, 1974), p. 6.

16. Brainard Cheney's Review of Flannery O'Connor's Wise Blood, in Shenandoah, 3 (Autumn, 1952) Appendix A, The Correspondence of Flannery O'Connor and the Brainard Cheneys, C. Ralph Stephens, Ed. (Jackson: The University Press of Mississippi, 1986.) pp. 195 - 197.

17. Aristotle, The Politics, Carnes Lord, trans., (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1984), Book 8.

18. Eric Voegelin, Plato and Aristotle: Volume Three, Order and History (Baton Rouge: Louisiana State University Press, 1957), p. 355.

19. Josef Pieper, Leisure, The Basis of Culture, Alexander Dru, trans. (New York: A Mentor Book, 1952); Neil Postman, Amusing Ourselves to Death (Viking Press, 1986).

20. Blaise Pascal, Pensées and the Provincial Letters, W.F. Trotter and Thomas M'Crie, trans. (New York: The Modern Library, 1941), Numbers 139, 142.

21. Pieper, Leisure, p. 41.

22. To Dr. George Beiswanger, August 22, 1952, no location supplied.

23. St. John of the Cross, The Collected Works of St. John of the Cross. Kieran Kavanaugh, O.C.D. and Otilio Rodriguez, O.C.D. (Washington, D.C.: Institute of Carmelite Studies, 1991), p. 27

24. Flannery O'Connor. The Presence of Grace and Other Book Reviews, Compiled by Leo J. Zuber, Carter W. Martin, ed. (Athens: The University of Georgia Press, 1983), p. 28.

25. The other woman was Simone Weil. Stein's study on St. John The Science of the Cross is in O'Connor's personal library.

26. Flannery O'Connor. The Presence of Grace and Other Book Reviews, Compiled by Leo J. Zuber, Carter W. Martin, ed. (Athens: The University of Georgia Press, 1983), p. 97.

27. St. John of the Cross, The Collected Works, Kieran Kavanaugh, O.C.D., trans. (Washington, D.C., ICS Publications, 1991), stanza 1, p. 113.

28. idem, p. 119.

29. idem, p. 113.

30. idem, p. 119.

31. idem, p. 136, 134.

32. idem, p. 137.

33. idem, p. 158

34. idem, p. 159.

35. idem, p. 35

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