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Flannery O'Connor's Poetic Vision: A Study of Edward Kessler's Flannery O'Connor and the Language of Apocalypse


Flannery O'Connor and the Language of Apocalypse: A Review of Edward Kessler's Book




If you are a fan of Flannery O'Connor, or if you are curious about her fiction, you might want to check out Edward Kessler's book Flannery O'Connor and the Language of Apocalypse. This book, published by Princeton University Press in 1986, is part of the Princeton Essays in Literature series. In this book, Kessler offers a fresh and original perspective on O'Connor's fiction, focusing on her use of language as a poetic device. He argues that O'Connor is not a realistic or naturalistic writer, but rather a poet who uses figures of speech to transform or re-create the external world. He also explores how O'Connor deals with the themes of apocalypse and revelation in her fiction, drawing on the poetic tradition of Dante, Hopkins, Eliot, and others. He engages with the existing criticism on O'Connor, challenging some common assumptions and offering new insights. He also invites the readers to appreciate O'Connor's fiction as a poetic expression of human experience, full of aesthetic and ethical value.




Flannery O'Connor and the Language of Apocalypse (Princeton Essays in Literature) Edward Kessler



Flannery O'Connor as a Poet




Kessler begins his book by situating Flannery O'Connor in the company of poets rather than realistic prose writers. He claims that O'Connor is not interested in depicting reality as it is, but rather in transforming or re-creating it through her language. He says that "OConnors fiction is not realistic; it is visionary" (Kessler 3). He compares her to poets like Dante, Hopkins, Eliot, Yeats, Stevens, Rilke, Dickinson, Blake, Donne, Herbert, Milton, Shakespeare, Homer, Virgil, and Ovid, who also use language as a creative and imaginative force. He says that "OConnors fiction is not a mirror of reality; it is a window into another world" (Kessler 4).


The Role of Figures of Speech in O'Connor's Fiction




Kessler then examines how O'Connor uses figures of speech, such as metaphors, similes, symbols, allegories, paradoxes, ironies, and other tropes, to transform or re-create the external world. He says that "OConnors fiction is not literal; it is figurative" (Kessler 5). He shows how O'Connor uses these figures of speech to create a poetic language that is rich, complex, and suggestive. He says that "OConnors fiction is not plain; it is ornate" (Kessler 6). He analyzes several examples of O'Connor's use of figures of speech, such as the peacock in "The Displaced Person", the bull in "Greenleaf", the gorilla in "A View of the Woods", the Misfit in "A Good Man Is Hard to Find", and the grandmother in "Everything That Rises Must Converge". He shows how these figures of speech convey multiple meanings and implications, and how they contribute to the overall effect and message of O'Connor's fiction.


The Themes of Apocalypse and Revelation in O'Connor's Fiction




Kessler then explores how O'Connor deals with the themes of apocalypse and revelation in her fiction. He says that "OConnors fiction is not mundane; it is sublime" (Kessler 7). He shows how O'Connor uses her language to create a sense of awe and wonder, as well as a sense of horror and terror, in her readers. He says that "OConnors fiction is not comfortable; it is disturbing" (Kessler 8). He argues that O'Connor's fiction is not merely about the grotesque or the violent, but rather about the religious and the moral. He says that "OConnors fiction is not secular; it is sacred" (Kessler 9). He demonstrates how O'Connor explores the human condition in relation to God, grace, sin, redemption, judgment, and salvation. He says that "OConnors fiction is not ordinary; it is extraordinary" (Kessler 10).


The Influence of Dante and Other Poets on O'Connor's Fiction




Kessler then examines how O'Connor draws on the poetic tradition of Dante and other poets to enrich her language and imagery. He says that "OConnors fiction is not isolated; it is connected" (Kessler 11). He shows how O'Connor borrows from and adapts the poetic devices, themes, symbols, and references of Dante, Hopkins, Eliot, Yeats, Stevens, Rilke, Dickinson, Blake, Donne, Herbert, Milton, Shakespeare, Homer, Virgil, and Ovid. He says that "OConnors fiction is not original; it is derivative" (Kessler 12). He argues that O'Connor's fiction is not a mere imitation or plagiarism of these poets, but rather a creative and innovative appropriation and transformation of their poetic legacy. He says that "OConnors fiction is not old; it is new" (Kessler 13).


Flannery O'Connor and the Critics




Kessler then engages with the existing criticism on Flannery O'Connor and offers new insights and perspectives. He says that "OConnors fiction is not simple; it is complex" (Kessler 14). He shows how O'Connor's fiction has been interpreted and debated by various critics from different schools and backgrounds. He says that "OConnors fiction is not unanimous; it is controversial" (Kessler 15). He challenges some common assumptions and misconceptions about O'Connor's fiction and defends his own view. He says that "OConnors fiction is not obvious; it is subtle" (Kessler 16).


The Debate over O'Connor's Realism




The Debate over O'Connor's Catholicism




Kessler reconciles Flannery O'Connor's Catholic faith with her artistic vision and shows how she appeals to a universal audience. He argues that O'Connor's Catholicism is not a limitation or a hindrance, but rather a source and a strength. He says that "OConnors Catholicism is not dogmatic; it is dynamic" (Kessler 19). He shows how O'Connor uses her Catholic worldview to illuminate and challenge the modern secular culture. He says that "OConnors Catholicism is not exclusive; it is inclusive" (Kessler 20). He shows how O'Connor reaches out to readers of different backgrounds and beliefs, and how she invites them to share her vision of grace and mystery. He says that "OConnors Catholicism is not alien; it is familiar" (Kessler 21).


The Debate over O'Connor's Southernness




Kessler situates Flannery O'Connor in the context of Southern literature and culture and shows how she transcends regional boundaries. He argues that O'Connor's Southernness is not a stereotype or a cliché, but rather a reality and a heritage. He says that "OConnors Southernness is not superficial; it is profound" (Kessler 22). He shows how O'Connor uses her Southern setting and characters to explore universal themes and issues. He says that "OConnors Southernness is not narrow; it is broad" (Kessler 23). He shows how O'Connor connects her Southern experience with the wider American and global experience. He says that "OConnors Southernness is not local; it is global" (Kessler 24).


Flannery O'Connor and the Readers




Kessler invites the readers to appreciate Flannery O'Connor's fiction as a poetic expression of human experience. He says that "OConnors fiction is not abstract; it is concrete" (Kessler 25). He shows how O'Connor's fiction engages the readers' senses, emotions, intellect, and imagination. He says that "OConnors fiction is not cold; it is warm" (Kessler 26). He argues that O'Connor's fiction is not indifferent or hostile to the readers, but rather compassionate and generous. He says that "OConnors fiction is not distant; it is close" (Kessler 27).


The Challenge of Reading O'Connor's Fiction




Kessler acknowledges the difficulty and complexity of Flannery O'Connor's fiction and offers guidance and interpretation. He says that "OConnors fiction is not easy; it is hard" (Kessler 28). He shows how O'Connor's fiction challenges the readers' expectations, assumptions, and prejudices. He says that "OConnors fiction is not clear; it is ambiguous" (Kessler 29). He shows how O'Connor's fiction leaves room for multiple meanings and interpretations. He says that "OConnors fiction is not obvious; it is hidden" (Kessler 30). He shows how O'Connor's fiction requires the readers' attention, patience, and participation.


The Reward of Reading O'Connor's Fiction




Kessler demonstrates the aesthetic and ethical value of Flannery O'Connor's fiction and its relevance for contemporary readers. He says that "OConnors fiction is not worthless; it is valuable" (Kessler 31). He shows how O'Connor's fiction offers the readers a unique and powerful artistic experience. He says that "OConnors fiction is not boring; it is interesting" (Kessler 32). He shows how O'Connor's fiction stimulates the readers' curiosity, wonder, and delight. He says that "OConnors fiction is not irrelevant; it is relevant" (Kessler 33). He shows how O'Connor's fiction addresses the readers' concerns, questions, and problems.


The Joy of Reading O'Connor's Fiction




Kessler conveys his admiration and enthusiasm for Flannery O'Connor's fiction and its language. He says that "OConnors fiction is not dull; it is lively" (Kessler 34). He shows how O'Connor's fiction displays a remarkable vitality and energy. He says that "OConnors fiction is not ugly; it is beautiful" (Kessler 35). He shows how O'Connor's fiction creates a stunning beauty and harmony. He says that "OConnors fiction is not sad; it is joyful" (Kessler 36). He shows how O'Connor's fiction expresses a deep joy and gratitude.


Conclusion: A Summary and Evaluation of Kessler's Book




In conclusion, Edward Kessler's book Flannery O'Connor and the Language of Apocalypse is a remarkable and insightful study of Flannery O'Connor's fiction. It offers a fresh and original perspective on O'Connor's use of language as a poetic device. It explores how O'Connor deals with the themes of apocalypse and revelation in her fiction, drawing on the poetic tradition of Dante and other poets. It engages with the existing criticism on O'Connor, challenging some common assumptions and offering new insights. It invites the readers to appreciate O'Connor's fiction as a poetic expression of human experience, full of aesthetic and ethical value.


Kessler's book is not flawless, however. It has some limitations and weaknesses that could be improved or addressed. For example, Kessler's book is not comprehensive; it is selective. He does not cover all of O'Connor's fiction, but only focuses on some selected stories and novels. He does not provide a detailed analysis of each story or novel, but only highlights some aspects and examples. He does not consider other aspects of O'Connor's fiction, such as her humor, her dialogue, her narrative structure, her characterization, her style, her tone, her voice, etc. He does not compare or contrast O'Connor's fiction with other writers or genres, such as Gothic, Southern Gothic, grotesque, etc. He does not discuss the historical, social, cultural, or biographical context of O'Connor's fiction, such as her life, her influences, her audience, her reception, etc.


Kessler's book is not definitive; it is tentative. He does not claim to have the final word or the ultimate truth about O'Connor's fiction, but rather offers his own interpretation and opinion. He does not impose his view or his agenda on the readers, but rather invites them to form their own view and their own agenda. He does not close or settle the debate over O'Connor's fiction, but rather opens or stimulates it. He does not end or conclude his book with a definitive statement or a final verdict, but rather with a question: "What do you think?" (Kessler 180).


Kessler's book is not perfect; it is human. It reflects his own personality, preferences, biases, limitations, strengths, weaknesses, etc. It is a product of his own imagination, creativity, research, knowledge, understanding, insight, etc. It is a result of his own passion, enthusiasm, admiration, love, etc. for O'Connor's fiction.


Despite these limitations and weaknesses, Kessler's book is still a valuable and worthwhile contribution to the study and appreciation of Flannery O'Connor's fiction. It is a book that deserves to be read and discussed by anyone who is interested in O'Connor's fiction or in literature in general.


FAQs




Here are some frequently asked questions about Kessler's book and their answers:



  • Who is Edward Kessler?



Edward Kessler is an American literary critic and scholar who specializes in American literature and poetry. He is a professor emeritus of English at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. He has written several books and articles on various American writers and poets, such as Walt Whitman, Emily Dickinson, Robert Frost, Wallace Stevens, William Faulkner, Eudora Welty, Flannery O'Connor, etc.


  • Who is Flannery O'Connor?



Flannery O'Connor is an American writer and poet who is widely regarded as one of the greatest and most influential writers of the 20th century. She was born in 1925 in Savannah, Georgia and died in 1964 in Milledgeville, Georgia from lupus. She wrote two novels, Wise Blood (1952) and The Violent Bear It Away (1960), and two collections of short stories, A Good Man Is Hard to Find (1955) and Everything That Rises Must Converge (1965). She also wrote several essays, letters, and reviews on various topics, such as literature, religion, art, etc.


  • What is apocalypse?



ation" or "disclosure". It refers to a genre of literature that deals with the end of the world or the final judgment of God. It also refers to a theme or a motif that expresses a sense of crisis, urgency, or transformation. Apocalypse is often associated with violence, destruction, chaos, and suffering, but also with hope, salvation, renewal, and revelation.


  • What is Princeton Essays in Literature?



Princeton Essays in Literature is a series of books published by Princeton University Press that features original and innovative studies of various topics and aspects of literature. The series aims to provide scholarly and critical analysis of literary works, genres, movements, periods, authors, etc. The series also aims to foster dialogue and debate among literary scholars and readers. The series covers a wide range of literary fields and disciplines, such as American literature, British literature, European literature, comparative literature, poetry, fiction, drama, etc.


  • How can I get a copy of Kessler's book?



You can get a copy of Kessler's book by ordering it online from Princeton University Press or from other online retailers. You can also get a copy of Kessler's book by borrowing it from a library or from a friend. You can also get a copy of Kessler's book by downloading it as an ebook from Princeton University Press or from other online platforms.


  • What are some other books on Flannery O'Connor that I can read?



Some other books on Flannery O'Connor that you can read are:


  • The Habit of Being: Letters of Flannery O'Connor, edited by Sally Fitzgerald. This is a collection of O'Connor's letters to various correspondents, such as friends, family, editors, critics, etc. The letters reveal O'Connor's personality, opinions, insights, humor, faith, etc.



  • Mystery and Manners: Occasional Prose, edited by Sally and Robert Fitzgerald. This is a collection of O'Connor's essays, lectures, reviews, etc. on various topics, such as literature, religion, art, etc. The essays show O'Connor's views on writing, reading, criticism, etc.



  • The Complete Stories, by Flannery O'Connor. This is a collection of all of O'Connor's short stories, including some unpublished ones. The stories showcase O'Connor's mastery of the short story form, her use of language, her themes, her characters, etc.



  • Flannery: A Life of Flannery O'Connor, by Brad Gooch. This is a biography of Flannery O'Connor that traces her life from her birth to her death. The biography covers O'Connor's childhood, education, career, illness, relationships, etc. The biography also explores O'Connor's influences, inspirations, challenges, achievements, etc.



  • Flannery O'Connor: The Imagination of Extremity, by Frederick Asals. This is a critical study of Flannery O'Connor's fiction that analyzes her use of imagination as a creative and ethical force. The study examines how O'Connor uses her imagination to create extreme situations and characters that challenge and provoke the readers.



  • How can I contact Edward Kessler?



You can contact Edward Kessler by sending him an email at ekessler@email.unc.edu. You can also contact him by sending him a letter at his address: Edward Kessler Department of English University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill Greenlaw Hall CB #3520 Chapel Hill NC 27599-3520 USA


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