Flannery O'Connor

1925 -- 1964


O'Connor At Andalusia, the Cline family dairy farm located between Milledgeville and Eatonton in Baldwin County, Mary Flannery O'Connor lived and wrote her greatest short stories and novels while suffering from a debilitating disease, lupus. Filled with visions of salvation and damnation, her stories are difficult to grasp but offer the reader a glimpse of grace. An only child, she was born in Savannah on March 25, 1925 to Edward Francis O'Connor Jr. and Regina Cline. The family lived there until 1938 when, after a brief move to Atlanta, it relocated to Milledgeville because of the illness of her father. When Flannery was fifteen he died of lupus. Her mother outlived her and died in 1995. Flannery was graduated from Georgia State College for Women in 1945 and for two years attended the Iowa State University workshops for writers, completing her thesis there in 1947. For a year she lived at the Yaddo writer's colony in Saratoga Springs and then elsewhere in New York and Connecticut until, on a return visit to Milledgeville in December 1950, she too was stricken with lupus. Henceforth her mother cared for her at Andalusia where between bouts with the disease, Flannery wrote. She published her first novel, Wise Blood, in 1952, a series of short stories, A Good Man is Hard to Find, in 1955, her second novel, The Violent Bare It Away, in 1960, and her second collection of short stories, Everything That Rises Must Converge, in 1965. She died from lupus on August 3, 1964 at the age of 39. O'Connor's The Complete Stories, published posthumously in 1971, received the National Book Award. Raised Roman Catholic, O'Connor found southern evangelicalism, with its Protestant emphasis on immediate conversion, worthy exploration. The played-out red clay of the postwar Piedmont provided fertile ground for Flannery's imagination as her stories interjected groteque characters into the everyday lives of the Georgians she described. With incongruities and shocking acts O'Connor upset the narrative and broke down the conventional world of her subjects, suddenly offering them a clear view of reality. Thus her understanding of religious belief and the human condition elevated he writings to the level of the greatest of literature.
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Photo courtesy of O'Connor Collection, Russell Library, Georgia College & State University
Created 17 May 2000. Last Updated Friday, December 15, 2000.
© 2000 Eatonton Literary Festival