Professor presents on life of Flannery O’Connor

first_imgSouthern, Catholic and bird lover are some of the words used most frequently to describe author Flannery O’Connor, the subject of a lecture delivered Tuesday afternoon by Angela Alaimo O’Donnell, professor at Fordham University and associate director of the Curran Center for American Catholic Studies.O’Donnell touched on these three facets of O’Connor’s life in her talk, entitled “Between the House and the Chicken Yard: The Life and Legacy of Mary Flannery O’Connor.” O’Connor was born in Savannah, and her family moved to Andalusia, a rural Georgia farm, Alaimo O’Donnell said, where the author took a great delight in raising chickens.“O’Connor’s first brush with fame occurred courtesy of her bird collection — when a Pathé newsman caught word of a Georgia girl who taught a bird to walk backwards, he made his way south and filmed Mary Flannery and her trick chicken,” she said. “She had a hunger for fame after this, and from that day forward she began to collect chickens, though of course her fame would come from other things.”The author received an MFA from the prestigious Iowa Writers’ Workshop and moved to New York, actively participating in literary and intellectual circles, Alaimo O’Donnell said. However, O’Connor was forced to return permanently to Andalusia, after she was diagnosed with lupus, an autoimmune disease.“O’Connor would endure this exile gracefully and with good humor until her death on Aug. 3, 1964,” she said. “Flannery no longer belonged to Georgia, to the small-town world of Milledgeville, and her mother’s friends. Her childhood sense of herself as a freak returned, a preoccupying idea that appears in the stories she wrote. … O’Connor’s stories often feature characters who clearly do not belong, sometimes by virtue of some physical affliction or deformity, or by virtue of a radically different way of seeing the world from those around her.”O’Connor’s fiction became her lifeline, and she drew inspiration from the people and events in her Southern community, Alaimo O’Donnell said.“She wrote every morning – two hours was all she could manage, despite the painful and debilitating effects of both the disease and the medication prescribed to remedy it,” she said. “Against all odds, O’Connor would produce two novels, 32 short stories, and many essays, reviews and commentaries and hundreds of letters in her thirteen years at Andalusia.”O’Connor may not occur to many readers as a Christian writer, Alaimo O’Donnell said, for she does not appear to write from a particular religious viewpoint. However, although O’Connor’s characters are rarely Catholic, they require an experience of grace.“O’Connor’s characters, like the freak chickens she raised as a child, are grotesques of every imaginable kind. They include mass murderers, social misfits, religious zealots, moral cretins, fake bible salesmen, one-legged women with Ph.D.s,” she said. “The one thing that binds all of O’Connor’s characters together is the fact that they are all in need of conversion or radical change.”Implicit in her creation of characters in need of conversion, her use of violence as a means of grace and her mingling of the comic and tragic, is a deeply religious vision, Alaimo O’Donnell said.“Flannery sees the possibility of redemption available to humanity in all places, at all times and through the most unexpected of means,” she said.While O’Connor saw her life as utterly ordinary, Alaimo O’Donnell said O’Connor was an author who integrated her faith and art so thoroughly that they became one practice.“Her own art becomes sign and symbol of the creative force that generates and governs the world, and so her own writing becomes, both in practice and in fact, a form of sacrament,” she said.Tags: Catholic writers, Flannery O’Connnor, Institute for Scholarship in the Liberal Artslast_img read more

On 8-7 vote, Iowa Senate panel approves death penalty in limited cases (AUDIO)

first_imgDES MOINES — Eight Republicans on a state senate committee have narrowly approved a bill that would reinstate the death penalty for people convicted of kidnapping, raping and murdering a child in Iowa.Senator Jake Chapman, a Republican from Adel, said polls show Iowans support the death penalty in these cases. “We’re talking about the most heinous acts that can happen here in Iowa,” Chapman said. “There isn’t anything much worse than what we’re discussing.”Senator Kevin Kinney, a Democrat from Oxford, is a retired Johnson County Deputy. He investigated the 2005 kidnapping, rape and murder of 10-year-old Jetseta Gage of Cedar Rapids — and Kinney said he’s visited the cell of Roger Bentley, the girl’s killer who was sentenced to life in prison.“He is living a deplorable life…If we kill him, that would be a gift to him,” Kinney said. “…I want him to sit in there and rot for the rest of his life.”Senator Jason Schultz, a Republican from Schleswig, said the death penalty is about justice for victims.“I believe the death penalty is pro-life because I’m worried about the victim. I’m not worried about the perpetrator,” Schultz said. “I think the perpetrator made his own decisions.”Senator Rob Hogg, a Democrat from Cedar Rapids who joined all Democrats in the committee in opposing the bill, quoted from the Bible.“‘Almighty God, the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ who desires not the death of sinners, but rather that they would turn from their wickedness and live,’” Hogg said. “If you kill somebody, that person has no opportunity to repent.”Senator Schultz responded by quoting from Genesis.“‘If a man sheds blood, then his blood shall be shed by man,’” Schultz said. “…It is for this reason that government bears the flaming sword — to implement justice.”Senator Tony Bisignano, a Democrat from Des Moines, said the death penalty is about vengeance.“Any murder is heinous, but we’re a civilized society and I think life in prison without parole truly is a punishment,” Bisignano said. “I think, to me, it’s more punishing.”And Bisignano raised the specter of wrongful convictions that have lead other states to execute the innocent. Senator Julian Garrett, a Republican from Indianola, responded.“We can be pretty sure when we’ve got DNA evidence that we’re going the right thing,” Garrett said.The Senate’s Republican leader has not indicated whether the bill will be scheduled for debate in the senate. The bill has 20 Republican co-sponsors, but 26 “yes” votes are required to pass bills in the senate.AUDIO of Senate Judiciary Committee debate of bill, 27:00last_img read more