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Flannery O'connor And The Christ-Haunted South [Paperback]

By Ralph C. Wood (Author)
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Item description for Flannery O'connor And The Christ-Haunted South by Ralph C. Wood...

For those looking to deepen their appreciation of Flannery O'Connor, Wood shows how this literary icon's stories, novels, and essays impinge on America's cultural and ecclesial condition.

Publishers Description
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.

Citations And Professional Reviews
Flannery O'connor And The Christ-Haunted South by Ralph C. Wood has been reviewed by professional book reviewers and journalists at the following establishments -
  • Christian Advance - 09/01/2005 page 57

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Item Specifications...

Studio: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Company
Pages   272
Est. Packaging Dimensions:   Length: 9.2" Width: 6.2" Height: 0.9"
Weight:   0.95 lbs.
Binding  Softcover
Release Date   Sep 1, 2005
Publisher   Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Company
ISBN  0802829996  
ISBN13  9780802829993  

Availability  6 units.
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More About Ralph C. Wood

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Ralph C. Wood is University Professor of Theology and Literature at Baylor University. He is the author of Flannery O'Connor and the Christ-Haunted South and Literature and Theology.

Ralph C. Wood currently resides in Waco, in the state of Texas.

Ralph C. Wood has published or released items in the following series...
  1. Horizons in Theology
  2. Making of the Christian Imagination

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1Books > Subjects > Literature & Fiction > Books & Reading > General
2Books > Subjects > Literature & Fiction > Books & Reading > History of Books
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5Books > Subjects > Literature & Fiction > History & Criticism > Criticism & Theory
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7Books > Subjects > Literature & Fiction > World Literature > United States > History & Criticism > 20th Century
8Books > Subjects > Literature & Fiction > World Literature > United States > History & Criticism > General
9Books > Subjects > Literature & Fiction > World Literature > United States > History & Criticism > Southern
11Books > Subjects > Religion & Spirituality

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Reviews - What do customers think about Flannery O'connor And The Christ-Haunted South?

An inspiration  Jan 11, 2007
This book is both an insightful exploration of O'Connor's dynamic Christian parables as well as an inspirational compilation of Christ-centered homilies. Christ, the South, and O'Connor are a holy trinity better appreciated by reading this book.
The question of Flannery's theology  Dec 8, 2006
Wood's Collection still seems to wonder about Flannery O'Connor's religion. It would be very satisfying to find a statement of the author herself which expresses her thinking on the subject.
Such a statement actually exists in the public domain. The Xavier Review Vol. 5 ,New Orleans, 1985, reprints two letters by Flannery. The first expresses her total and enthusiastic endorsement of an essay on her work in Vol 2 NO 1 of THE XAVIER UNIVERSITY STUDIES, "Shock and Orthodoxy: An Interpretation of Flannery O'Connor's Novels and Short Stories." It leaves no doubt about her theology.

Tolle, lege!
Sensitive Cultural and Theological Analysis  May 29, 2006
Wood's study is a sensitive treatment that brings Southern culture and O'Connor's fiction into a reciprocally illuminating focus. Six of the book's eight chapters appear here as much-revised versions of previously published essays. Even so, the book hangs together effectively as a monograph. Its signal contribution to studies of O'Connor's work comes especially in its theological analysis, which relates her thought not only to the Catholic tradition but to twentieth-century Protestant theologians like Karl Barth and Reinhold Niebuhr.

Wood begins in chapter 1 by detailing how O'Connor's orthodox, sacramental and deeply iconic Catholicism gave her an appreciation for the Bible-centered Protestant fundamentalism typical of her native region. While revisiting "The Violent Bear It Away," "A Good Man Is Hard to Find," and "Parker's Back," he shows how the fanaticism of the backwoods country preachers and misfits in her fiction opens them to transcendent realities to which the nihilism and lukewarm liberalism of modernity remain oblivious.

He proceeds in chapter 2 to describe how the great "burden of Southern history"--the South's loss in the Civil War--imbued Southern culture and its literature with a sense of human finitude at once tragic and true. Wood brings O'Connor's unique perspective into conversation with H. L. Mencken's notorious disdain for the South, which he derisively labeled "the Sahara of the Bozart"; with the Agrarian author and former disciple of Mencken, Allen Tate, whose defense of antebellum Southern culture obliged him to jettison the specific truths of Christianity; and with Eugene Genovese, the former Marxist cum rehabilitated Catholic, whose analysis of antebellum slavery provides a corrective to Tate. Wood also makes brief forays into the Scopes trial, snakehandling, and O'Connor's luminous story "Greenleaf."

When he turns in chapter 3 to "the problem of the color line," Wood reveals how complicated were O'Connor's attitudes toward race relations. Although she was a strong advocate of the basic goals of the Civil Rights movement, she disdained condescending, quick fixes that would force blacks and whites into a contrived and ultimately dehumanizing closeness. Wood makes fruitful comparisons and contrasts with another of the South's great writers, Eudora Welty, and with O'Connor's friend, the Northern liberal Maryat Lee; he follows them with careful readings of "The Enduring Chill" and "Everything That Rise Must Converge."

Chapter 4, "The South as a Mannered and Mysteriously Redemptive Region" scrutinizes the formal gestures that established both closeness and distance in the social intercourse of blacks and whites in the South. Wood offers an extended treatment of the last story O'Connor wrote, "Judgment Day" (a recast version of her first story, "The Geranium") and an acute theological analysis of her personal favorite, "The Artificial Nigger."

In chapter 5 Wood examines preaching as the 'sacrament' of Southern fundamentalism, drawing on the work of Karl Barth, whom many readers will be surprised to learn was a major influence on O'Connor, and giving voice to her three multigenerational preachers, the nihilist Hazel Motes in "Wise Blood," the teen Bevel Summers in "The River," and the child Lucette Carmody in "The Violent Bear It Away".

In chapter 6, Wood's essay on "demonic nihilism" as "the chief temptation of modernity" demonstrates how full and fair a hearing O'Connor gave the atheists in her fiction, the most memorable of whom is Hulga Hopewell in the painfully comic story "Good Country People." Wood details O'Connor's respect for Nietzsche, Heidegger, Sartre, and Camus and resorts once again to Barth, this time for his exploration of the nature of evil.

Chapter 7, "Vocation: The Divine Summons to Drastic Witness," traces O'Connor's understanding of vocation with a close examination of her uncouth prophet, Mason Tarwater. For O'Connor "the image of God in man must be wrenched from its unnatural thralldom to false lords"; vocation, defined as "the summons to live out the privileges and requirements of the Christian faith" is the touchstone of this wrenching.

Wood's final chapter 8, "Climbing the Starry Field and Shouting Hallelujah: O'Connor's Vision of the World to Come, " examines O'Connor's eschatology, focusing on those moments of grace that conclude most of her short stories and choosing as his examples the atheist Rayber in "The Violent Bear It Way" and Mrs. Ruby Turpin in "Revelation."

To his credit, Wood never stumbles over the scandal of O'Connor's stories, never blunts the hard edge of her characters, and never apologizes for the grotesque idiom she chose for her work. Perhaps the greatest merit of his study, though, is his engagement with the irreducibly theological character of O'Connor's fiction and unashamed owning of the truth claims that suffuse it.
The Catholic-Haunted Ralph C. Wood   May 28, 2006
I ordered this book because this site 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. Thus he never introduces his sources, merely dragging in the big guns to support his ideas.

As two other books have tried to show, this won't fly. The author of Jesus in America shows that civil religion, with its well-intentioned mantra of "deeds not creeds" was so all-encompassing that lay theology books (so called) were best-sellers, whether yea or nay. In The Goodly Word, Ellwood Johnson shows how Puritan ideas and language from Colonial times on became enshrined in increasingly secular literature. Some sense of this process, and its offspring, 'fifties civil religion, is necessary to enlighten Wood's many asides and attributions.

That process reached a peak in the 1920s when H.L. Mencken made the derisive comment that if you threw an egg off a bus you would hit a fundamentalist. His open criticisms of the South, as Wood shows, led to the formation of the Southern Agrarian writers group. Wood tackles the thorny problem of the South--its historical racialism, but he also shows why O'Connor did not adopt the tactics of the Northern attackers, afraid that "the South's few virtues would be destroyed along with its many vices."

O'Connor also found herself at odds with the liberal Catholic version of civil religion, as in her famous comment on the Eucharist: "if it's a symbol, then the hell with it." As Wood sympathetically explains O'Connor's sacramental view, I have no problem understanding why O'Connor was a Catholic. My only question is why Wood isn't one.

Flannery O'Connor and the Christ Haunted South   Jul 22, 2005
Excellent book. Author has a long history of studying O'Connor and is friendly to her point of view and religious orientation, even though his is not the same.

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