Ritual Performance in the Fiction of Flannery O'Connor

December 2000
295 pages
9x6 in
Studies in English and American Literature and Culture
ISBN: 9781571131966
Format: Hardback
Camden House
BISAC LIT004020, LIT004290, LIT018000

Ritual Performance in the Fiction of Flannery O'Connor

Cynthia L. Seel

out of stock

The first study of the importance of ritual in the works of O'Connor, with in-depth analysis of six of the writer's works.
Flannery O'Connor wrote some thirty short stories and two novellas in her brief but brilliant literary career, including such remarkable works as 'Wise Blood' (1952), 'The Violent Bear It Away' (1960), and the short story anthology, A Good Man Is Hard To Find (1955). While she enjoyed considerable recognition during her lifetime, since her death in 1964 at age 39 her work has garnered even greater acclaim at the national and international levels. The proliferation of O'Connor studies and the increased presence of her works in both the high school and college curriculum clearly support the view that her position as an eminent American writer is secure.
Cynthia Seel's study offers a decidedly new way of reading O'Connor. Analyzing six works in detail -- the short stories 'Mystery That is Lived,' 'A Circle in the Fire,' 'The Artificial Nigger,' 'The Lame shall Enter First,' 'A Temple of the Holy Ghost,' and 'A Stroke of Good Fortune' -- Seel examines O'Connor's primary use of ritual as form (or aesthetic frame) and as transforming action, and thus illuminates the method and impact of O'Connor's works afresh. While O'Connor's affinity for ritual has not gone unnoticed, no one has before assembled and analyzed ritual as it has appeared in a wide range of her fiction, as this book does. It will interest students and teachers of American literature, Southern Studies, feminist theory, and ritual studies.

Cynthia L. Seel received her Ph.D. in Performance Studies from Northwestern University.

Table of Contents

"Mystery That is Lived": The Ritual Arena
"A Circle in the Fire": Tutelary Spirits and Divining Art
"The Artificial Nigger": Ritual Nekyia
"The Lame Shall Enter First": The Trickster as Ritual Guide
"The River": Exorcism and the Baptismal Rite
"A Temple of the Holy Ghost": Initiation of a Girl Child
"A Stroke of Good Fortune": The Mystery of Incarnation
The Art of Seeing: The Perfomance of Imagination


Providing a corrective to current feminist readings that denigrate O'Connor's female characters, she argues that the feminine in O'Connor's work functions as a force cut off from the soul. CHOICE

Seel's reading and the framework she proposes is illuminating; students of O'Connor will find the book a useful resource. RELIGIOUS STUDIES REVIEW

The accomplishment of Seel's study -- a major one-- is its demonstration of feminine power as a structuring principle in O'Connor's work. INTERNATIONAL FICTION REVIEW

Also in Series