Date of Submission



This thesis attempts to demonstrate the way in which Flannery 0' Connor uses the personal letter as vehicle for negotiating her involvement with the world. It begins by examining the way in which O'Connor's letters function as a form of self-writing. Discussing her letters as an autobiographical text highlights the significance of detachment in the creation of a self-identity responsive to ""cultural"" and ""essential"" impulses simultaneously. This leads inevitably to the identification of the ways in which O'Connor, in her letters, repeatedly adopts perspectives that facilitate her disengagement from immediate surroundings. It is evident that her experience of the world is mediated through her use of two responses - comedy and resoluteness. O'Connor's comic sense allows her an individual, complex response to the discursive cultural influences in her life. Her use of comedy in her letters foreshadows the function of humor in her stories: in her fiction, O'Connor develops further the possibilities of a comic engagement with life. O'Connor's resoluteness testifies to her involvement in something ""essential"". It is an integral part of her religious consciousness and reflects the long-range, expansive dimensions of her personal vision. In that it allows her to disengage with irrelevant or distracting considerations, resoluteness becomes invaluable for ensuring the integrity of O'Connor's vocation as a writer. It is evident that resoluteness describes both O'Connor's own response to life and the operation of truth in her stories. The detachment intrinsic to communication by letter fosters the detachment that, for O'Connor, becomes the means for an intense engagement with life and a positive self-construction. This is crucial for the maintenance of an individual, authentic perspective and is therefore essential both for O'Connor's personal autonomy and for her success as an artist.


School of Arts and Sciences

Document Type


Access Rights

Open Access


133 pages


Faculty of Arts and Sciences


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