What Flannery Knew: Catholic Writing for a Critical Age

Author: Paul Elie

November 21, 2008

This Commonweal article is a reprinted version of an April 2008 lecture Elie delivered at Georgetown University entitled "The Beginning of Vision: Catholic Writing in a Critical Age." In it Elie uses Flannery O'Connor's final lecture, delivered at Georgetown in honor of the university's one hundred seventy-fifth anniversary, as a touchstone for a discussion of contemporary Catholic literary culture centered on the notion of "the Christian in spite of himself." Elie contends that American Catholic culture is changing in such a way that makes it inhospitable to the continued development of critical Catholic writers of the sort represented by Flannery O'Connor. He concludes by asserting that the very question of God's existence, and whether God can be made known to us, ought to be the question that occupies the next wave of Catholic writers.

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