Following Flannery, locating ourselves : the theological significance of place in Flannery O’Connor.

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This dissertation investigates the theological significance of place in the work of Flannery O’Connor. By bringing together her fiction and nonfiction (essays, letters, and journals), it demonstrates how place is a concept whose intelligibility depends upon both and thus can only be understood by reading them together. This dissertation first establishes O’Connor’s “grammar” of place with attention to its constitutive terms: region, local, particular, concrete, realism, and the grotesque. It then turns to display how her understanding of place (and its function in fiction) are the outworkings of her ontological and doctrinal convictions about what the world is and in what sense we may claim that those convictions are “sacramental.” Thus armed, this dissertation explores O’Connor’s embodiment of displacement in her fiction, where displacement names the pathology of the modern age, as well as its surprising cure. After demonstrating the need for displacement, future chapters explore the possibility of a replacement through the grateful embrace of limits (as Maritain understood that as form in art and William Lynch conveyed it as dogma in belief). The salutary embrace of limits is then considered in the style and content of O’Connor’s fiction, as well as in her own life. Finally, the eschatological dimensions of place are considered as those deepen, rather than undermine, the possibility for human implacement in the present world in light of ultimate implacement in the world to come. The conclusion suggests ways in which O’Connor might teach us how to think theologically about place.

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Flannery O'Connor, Place
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