Not many recordings exist of the late Catholic author Flannery O’Connor, but one of the few that does was created 61 years ago this month right here at Notre Dame.
In April of 1957, Flannery O’Connor visited the University on invitation of the English department to read from her short story collection A Good Man Is Hard to Find. Delivered in her distinctive Georgia accent, O’Connor’s reading and lecture, “Some Aspects of the Grotesque in Southern Fiction,” took place in Room 204 of O’Shaughnessy Hall, preceded a few days earlier by a panel discussion on “the problems of a Catholic writer of fiction.”
O’Connor was born in Savannah, Georgia, on March 25, 1925, to Catholic parents. She graduated from the Georgia State College for Women and then spent two years at the Writers’ Workshop at the University of Iowa. While at Iowa, she met various writers and literary critics including Robert Penn Warren, John Crowe Ransom, Austin Warren and Andrew Lytle.
O’Connor published her first novel, Wise Blood, in 1952. “A Good Man Is Hard to Find” appeared in 1953 and would become one of her most well-known short stories. As depicted in this clip, her writing was direct, full of satire, sarcasm, and comedy, but also dealt with her Roman Catholic faith.
In 1950 O’Connor contracted lupus and was forced to move back to her parents’ farm outside of Milledgeville, Georgia. Despite her illness, she continued to write and travel throughout the country for book readings, including a second visit to Notre Dame in 1962. She died in 1964 at the age of 39.
This clip represents one of only a handful of existing recordings of O’Connor’s readings. Originally recorded on a reel-to-reel audio tape, the lecture came to the University Archives on an audio cassette from Notre Dame’s Educational Media Department in the 1980s. Audio-visual archivist Erik Dix has digitized the excerpt heard here.
From the Archives is a new series written by the staff of the University of Notre Dame Archives highlighting notable pieces from their collection. Through its rich historical resources, the University Archives provides campus, national and international communities with a broad historical focus on the evolution of the University of Notre Dame, its contributions to higher education, and its place in history.