“While the South is hardly Christ-centered, it is most certainly Christ-haunted.” - Flannery O'Connor
‘Common themes in Southern Gothic literature include deeply flawed, disturbing or eccentric characters who may or may not dabble in hoodoo, ambivalent gender roles and decayed or derelict settings, grotesque situations, and other sinister events relating to or coming from poverty, alienation, crime and violence.’
People are always complaining that the modern novelist has no hope and that the picture he paints of the world is unbearable. The only answer to this is that people without hope do not write novels. Writing a novel is a terrible experience, during which the hair often falls out and the teeth decay. I’m always highly irritated by people who imply that writing fiction is an escape from reality. It is a plunge into reality and it’s very shocking to the system. If the novelist is not sustained by a hope of money, then he must be sustained by a hope of salvation…
Flannery O’Connor, from the essay “The Nature and Aim of Fiction” in Mystery and Manners: Occasional Prose (1969)
(…) I think it is safe to say that while the South is hardly Christ-centered, it is most certainly Christ-haunted. The Southerner, who isn’t convinced of it, is very much afraid that he may have been formed in the image and likeness of God.
Flannery O’Connor, The Grotesque in Southern Fiction
One new quarter of college begun. I achieved a nice success in Eng. 360 by making a rather humorous remark and then not laughing at it while the others did. I must try to do it again. That is the sort of me I strive to build up—the cool, sophisticated, clever wit. The inarticulate, confused, blunderer overwhelms most of the time, however.
Flannery O’Connor’s college journal entry for December 29th, 1943, reprinted in Harper’s Magazine, February 2018
Even in the life of a Christian, faith rises and falls like the tides of an invisible sea. It’s there, even when he can’t see it or feel it, if he wants it to be there. You realize, I think, that it is more valuable, more mysterious, altogether more immense than anything you can learn or decide upon… It will keep you free - not free to do anything you please, but free to be formed by something larger than your own intellect or the intellects around you.
Flannery O'Connor in a letter to a young student struggling to believe