Blessed wounding : the theological import of paratactic style in Flannery O'Connor's fiction and Hebrew narrative.
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Toombs, Rachel Sarah, 1983-
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This dissertation explores the theological connection between narrations of God's wounding blessing and the paratactic style of Hebrew narrative and Flannery O'Connor's fiction. This connection is evidenced in the wounding of patriarch Jacob in Gen 32 and the self-blinding of protagonist Hazel Motes in Wise Blood. In both cases, the climactic moments are rendered without syntactical clues to their meaning. At once bewildered and enticed, readers are left to interpret the terrifying character of divine action without narratival help. Centrally, I argue that sparely narrated encounters with grace fittingly illustrate the theological claim that God's blessings sometimes also wound. I capture the spare paratactic style that contributes to Flannery O'Connor's distinctive literary voice by drawing out Flannery O'Connor's style in two ways: through an examination of her revisions to Wise Blood in consultation with her writing mentor Caroline Gordon and exploring the qualities her style shares with biblical Hebrew poetics. I then turn to instances of narrating wounding blessings in Jacob and Hazel, transposing the distinctive feature of biblical Hebrew narrative - the wayyiqtol - onto Wise Blood's climactic moment. Finally, after establishing O'Connor's spare style, I return to the theological theme of wounding blessing to demonstrate how spare style invites readers into their own encounters with grace analogous to the vulnerability found in prayer. The relationship between the way a story is rendered and its impact on readers demonstrates the value of literature not only for thematically addressing theological truths but also as cultivating a posture for divine encounter.