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American Gargoyles: Flannery O'Connor and the Medieval by Anthony Di Renzo

By Anthony Di Renzo

Focusing right here at the comedian genius of Flannery O’Connor’s fiction, Anthony Di Renzo finds a size of the author’s paintings that has been neglected through either her supporters and her detractors, such a lot of whom have heretofore focused solely on her use of theology and parable.Noting an especial kinship among her characters and the grotesqueries that enhance the margins of illuminated manuscripts and the facades of eu cathedrals, he argues that O’Connor’s Gothicism brings her stories nearer in spirit to the English secret cycles and the leering gargoyles of medieval structure than to the Gothic fiction of Poe and Hawthorne to which critics have so usually associated her work.Relying in part on Mikhail Bakhtin’s research of Rabelais, Di Renzo examines the several varieties of the gruesome in O’Connor’s fiction and the parallels in medieval paintings, literature, and folklore. He starts off via demonstrating that the determine of Christ is the correct in the back of her satire—an perfect, besides the fact that, that needs to be degraded in addition to exalted whether it is ever to be a dwelling presence within the actual global. Di Renzo is going directly to talk about O’Connor’s strange therapy of the human physique and its dating to medieval fabliaux. He depicts the interaction among the saintly and the demonic in her paintings, illustrating how for her solid is simply as gruesome as evil since it continues to be "something below construction."

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Extra resources for American Gargoyles: Flannery O'Connor and the Medieval Grotesque

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O'Connor's marginal characters live not only at the threshold of society but at the border of conventional sanity. Like the lunatics and lepers cavorting on the deck of a medieval Narrenschiff, her berserk evangelists, gun-toting psychos, and perverse traveling salesmen laugh maniacally on a ship of fools floating down the Oconee River. Initially, this spectacle comforts us. O'Connor's grotesques maintain their inferior position. They are sick jokes, and we drown out their laughter with a superior laughter of our own.

Still, as depth psychologist James Hillman explains in The Myth of Analysis, grotesque figures can also be a sign of vitality and wisdom: "The damaged and queer figures who emerge from our complexes," he says, "do not indicate that something has gone wrong and that the ego should set it straight. These shapes are dynamic, and their pathological detail is a goad to vivacity and insight. They are the active agents of the imagination, its vanguard to profounder psychological insight" (200). Spending time with O'Connor's grotesques can be a dose of strong medicine, but as children will sometimes confess, there is a hidden, if perverse, pleasure in swallowing castor oil.

She liked to describe facesshe hardly ever passed up an opportunityand nearly all her faces are ugly. " Each part of the physiognomy comes in for its share of abuse; hair is likened to dirty mops and rings of sausageit is said to stream down the face like ham gravy. One could continue the catalogbut the point, I think, is clear. Human beings are ugly in every way; the human form itself is distinctly unpleasant to behold; human life is a sordid, almost unrelievedly hideous affair. (910) Notice the overreaction on Stephens' part, the strong suggestion that O'Connor's art is somehow misanthropic.

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