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The Life You Write May Be Your Own: Epistolary Autobiography and the Reluctant Resurrection of Flannery O'Connor

The Life You Write May Be Your Own: Epistolary Autobiography and the Reluctant Resurrection of... The Life You Write May Be Your Own: Epistolary Autobiography and the Reluctant Resurrection of Flannery O’Connor by Robert McGill “I prayed there for the novel I was working on, not for my bones, which I care about less.” —Flannery O’Connor after visiting Lourdes ( The Habit of Being, 509) Flannery O’Connor would not have considered herself a likely object of autobiographical studies. Although she wrote occasional prose and lectures—collected posthumously in 1969’s Mystery and Man- ners —her preoccupation was almost exclusively the production of fi c- tion. It dominated not only her literary output but also her daily life, as she battled lupus and devoted what energy she had to writing. The dis- ease necessitated a strict and solitary routine that only infrequently took her away from Andalusia, her mother’s farm in Milledgeville, Georgia. In a 1958 letter to a friend, O’Connor went so far as to claim that there would be no biography of her because “lives spent between the house and the chicken yard do not make exciting copy” (Habit 290 –91). Such off hand self-effacement is ubiquitous in her letters, yet O’Connor’s rela- tionship to life-writing is not straightforward. At the very least, the pub- http://www.deepdyve.com/assets/images/DeepDyve-Logo-lg.png The Southern Literary Journal University of North Carolina Press

The Life You Write May Be Your Own: Epistolary Autobiography and the Reluctant Resurrection of Flannery O'Connor

The Southern Literary Journal , Volume 36 (2) – May 19, 2004

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Publisher
University of North Carolina Press
Copyright
Copyright © 2004 the Southern Literary Journal and the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill Department of English.
ISSN
1534-1461

Abstract

The Life You Write May Be Your Own: Epistolary Autobiography and the Reluctant Resurrection of Flannery O’Connor by Robert McGill “I prayed there for the novel I was working on, not for my bones, which I care about less.” —Flannery O’Connor after visiting Lourdes ( The Habit of Being, 509) Flannery O’Connor would not have considered herself a likely object of autobiographical studies. Although she wrote occasional prose and lectures—collected posthumously in 1969’s Mystery and Man- ners —her preoccupation was almost exclusively the production of fi c- tion. It dominated not only her literary output but also her daily life, as she battled lupus and devoted what energy she had to writing. The dis- ease necessitated a strict and solitary routine that only infrequently took her away from Andalusia, her mother’s farm in Milledgeville, Georgia. In a 1958 letter to a friend, O’Connor went so far as to claim that there would be no biography of her because “lives spent between the house and the chicken yard do not make exciting copy” (Habit 290 –91). Such off hand self-effacement is ubiquitous in her letters, yet O’Connor’s rela- tionship to life-writing is not straightforward. At the very least, the pub-

Journal

The Southern Literary JournalUniversity of North Carolina Press

Published: May 19, 2004

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