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Flannery O'Connor and the Christ-Haunted South
Ralph C Wood
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POD; Published: 5/2/2005
ISBN: 978-0-8028-2999-3
Price: $ 30.99
284 Pages
Trim Size, in inches: 6.14 x 9.21
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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.
Catholic Press Association, Second Place, Biography (2005)
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."
John R. May
"Ralph Wood's capacity for relating great literature not only to our personal lives but also to the world we live in is without parallel. As he persuasively presents and analyzes Flannery O'Connor's works, her Christ-haunted South becomes, whether we like it or not, our world. Wood is without a doubt the ecumenical master of the cultural and ecclesial significance of fiction. There is no other critic of the theological dimension of fiction that I would rather read."
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."
Times Literary Supplement
"Powerful. Wood's literary analysis is sensitively balanced, and his theological dissection fills a void in the relatively small existing body of O'Connor criticism. . . Wood has successfully refreshed O'Connor's message for a new generation of scholarship."
The Christian Century
"The result of a lifetime of thought and careful scholarship. . . Wood is an ideal guide to O'Connor's work and thought."
National Review
"This book is an intelligent companion to some great writing that is strongly situated both in its region and in its theological tradition."
The Charlotte Observer
"Wood offers us a wonderful guide to the mysteries of O'Connor's writings, as well as an insightful look at her life in the Christ-haunted South."
"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."
Susan Srigley
"In Flannery O'Connor and the Christ-Haunted South Ralph Wood explores the religious landscape of O'Connor's fiction in light of her own comment that 'subject matter has more to do with region than religion, at least in fiction.' Wood's book offers a compelling description of Southern culture and religion, nicely weaving O'Connor's insights and engagement with that region into his discussion. What Wood sees with particular clarity, and argues with remarkable vitality, is how O'Connor's religious fiction gives voice 'to those whom official history has left almost unnoticed.' In this sense Flannery O'Connor and the Christ-Haunted South is a revealing study of the South that also captures effectively O'Connor's prophetic gift for bringing that religious culture to life."
Roger Lundin
"Ralph Wood brilliantly combines a close analysis of Flannery O'Connor's fiction with a broader examination of the Christ-haunted culture in which she lived. With characteristic wit and vigor, Wood has crafted a dazzling lens through which we may examine the prospects that lie before American culture and the church. This is a superb book about one of modern America's most accomplished writers."
Adam Schwartz
"Ralph Wood is one of our finest Christian literary critics. This book's affirmation of Flannery O'Connor's radical sacramentalism as the most hope-filled antidote to secularist nihilism is the rich fruit of years of research and reflection. In elucidating O'Connor's 'angular orthodoxy,' Wood reveals his own. The result is a bracing challenge to corrosive cultural commonplaces that even many Christians parrot."
Jay Tolson
"This is not the first time Ralph Wood has entered the fictional territory of the incomparable Flannery O'Connor, but he does so here with even greater focus and intensity. More knowingly than any other critic, Wood illuminates the artistry and faith of a devout Catholic whose greatest work grew out of respectful, even loving dissonance with those 'other' Christians, the Christ-haunted Protestants of the American South."