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Flannery O’Connor: Sassy & Southern

Did you know that Georgia College Bobcats were almost the Flannery O’Connor University Peacocks? That’s right, we were almost all FOCU alumnae (I can’t imagine why they would have decided against that…).  Flannery O’Connor and her peacocks are nearly inescapable in Milledgeville, but you won’t hear me complaining any time soon. For those of you who have been living under rocks (no judgment!), O’Connor was an amazing writer who graduated from Georgia State College for Women— now known as none other than Georgia College & State University! Though she was born a little further south in the beautiful town of Savannah, she and her mother took up residence in Milledgeville after her father died when she was a teenager. After graduating from college, she travelled around to study journalism and met many of the great writers of her time who would later be helpful in getting her name out there and achieving literary success.

Flannery O’Connor is considered a cornerstone of the southern gothic style of writing, penning two novels and more than thirty short stories before dying from lupus at the age of thirty-nine. Most of you have probably read her short story “A Good Man Is Hard to Find” in a past English class, as it has been widely anthologized due to its embodiment of southern gothic literature. A great deal of her work exemplifies the biting wit common among southern writers, and she was certainly never afraid to point out humans’ flaws. O’Connor has a way of bringing all of her background into focus with her fiction, particularly being raised in the south and as a Catholic. She saw her own writing style as “Christian realism” and said there was nothing “harder or less sentimental” than that. O’Connor came back to Milledgeville to live with her mother due to her illness, and once here she started raising peacocks, among many other exotic birds. So if you were wondering where all of the peacock themed stuff around here came from, now you know!

For English majors here, O’Connor’s shadow looms large. I mean, we have an entire class dedicated to studying the National Book Award Winner. You’ve probably heard of Andalusia, O’Connor’s family farm, located just a couple of miles from campus, and if you haven’t been you’re seriously missing out! The house where O’Connor and her mother lived is now a small museum for the writer, and the grounds are absolutely perfect for a leisurely walk on a spring afternoon. A great deal of O’Connor’s writing was done here in Milledgeville during her time convalescing, and a visit to Andalusia shows readers a great deal of the inspiration for the settings in many of her stories. Plus, there are the famous peacocks that she raised and frequently featured in her fictions. Holy moly, those things are gorgeous.

If you haven’t read any of O’Connor’s work, I highly recommend picking up a copy of her Complete Stories (the newest edition even features peacock feathers on the cover!), which won the National Book Award in 1972, or her novel Wise Blood, which also features all of her signature themes and images. If you’re an avid reader who wants to know more about this iconic author, I would suggest locating a copy of The Habit of Being, a compilation of many of the letters she wrote while living at Andalusia. No matter what you choose, I’m sure you’ll recognize many of the settings she describes!

Tess is a senior English major at Georgia College, with a concentration in literature and a minor in French. She loves Bruce Springsteen, watching TV, matching pajama sets, baking, cuddling with her dog, and oxford commas. Her life goal is to marry Ben Wyatt and have the hair of a Victoria's Secret model. You can follow her on Twitter at @likeomgtess.
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