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One of them gory stories: genre identity of Flannery O'Connor's prose

Vladimir Vujošević ; Filološki fakultet Univerziteta Donja Gorica (UDG)

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str. 51-60

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The Flannery O'Connor scholarship was marked by a peculiar genre controversy. Critics have referred to O'Connor either as the author who belongs to the tradition of the so-called “Gothic fiction” or as the “Catholic writer”. In this article it is argued that these two most frequent descriptions of the generic nature of her work (i.e., Gothic fiction and Catholic revival) are de facto contradictory. Catholicism and the Gothic are two ideologically opposed semantic registers. However, her prose possesses both of these contradictory genre identities. It is pointed out that the Gothic fiction and the Enlightenment historiography (especially, its treatment of the Middle Ages) share certain pattern similarities. This insight makes it possible to claim that some of the key Gothic motifs operate as “defamiliarized” concepts of (medieval) Catholicism. In Gothic fiction, the aesthetic codes of Catholicism are extrapolated from their theological tradition so that they can function as uncanny objects, categories of the Freudian unheimlich. In O'Connor's work, the Gothic operates as an idiom of the problematic presence of the “sacred” in the period of secular modernity. However, Gothic narrative conventions in her work are eventually suspended so that a clear, theologically minute, sacral representation can be established at the end. The process of “fashioning” the Gothic motifs into the sacred imagery of pre-modern Christianity is at work in O'Connor's fiction. This procedure can be termed as “familiarization” and it functions as the Freudian “un-heimlich” in reverse. Simply put: the very process of historical development of the Gothic fiction is, in O'Connor's prose, reconstructed in reverse (from eerie, spectral, parareligious objects to theologically elaborated imagery of pre-modern Catholicism).

Ključne riječi

Flannery O'Connor; the Gothic; Catholicism; cryptohagiographies; Edward Gibbon; the Enlightenment; deteologization; literary genres

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