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American Gargoyles: Flannery O'Connor and the Medieval by Anthony Di Renzo

By Anthony Di Renzo

Focusing right here at the comedian genius of Flannery O’Connor’s fiction, Anthony Di Renzo finds a size of the author’s paintings that has been ignored by way of either her supporters and her detractors, so much of whom have heretofore focused solely on her use of theology and parable.Noting an especial kinship among her characters and the grotesqueries that beautify the margins of illuminated manuscripts and the facades of eu cathedrals, he argues that O’Connor’s Gothicism brings her stories nearer in spirit to the English secret cycles and the leering gargoyles of medieval structure than to the Gothic fiction of Poe and Hawthorne to which critics have so frequently associated her work.Relying in part on Mikhail Bakhtin’s research of Rabelais, Di Renzo examines the various different types of the gruesome in O’Connor’s fiction and the parallels in medieval artwork, literature, and folklore. He starts off through demonstrating that the determine of Christ is the perfect at the back of her satire—an perfect, besides the fact that, that has to be degraded in addition to exalted whether it is ever to be a residing presence within the actual global. Di Renzo is going directly to talk about O’Connor’s strange remedy of the human physique and its dating to medieval fabliaux. He depicts the interaction among the saintly and the demonic in her paintings, illustrating how for her strong is simply as gruesome as evil since it continues to be "something lower than construction."

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Young Tarwater] grimaced. The old man had always impressed on him his good fortune in not being sent to school. While other children his age were herded together in a room to cut out paper pumpkins , he was left to be free [with] the companions of his spirit Abel and Enoch and Noah and Job, Abraham and Moses, King David and Solomon, and all the prophets from Elijah who escaped death, to John whose severed head struck terror from a dish. (13233) Herein lies the appeal of the grotesque. Aggressive and obnoxious, saturated with human sweat but possessing a riotous imagination, it is a vulgar "defender of being against the pure concept of category" (Lynch 114).

Listen to Enoch Emery witness to the power of Jesus as he relates his escape from the clutches of a "welfare woman": "I studied on it and studied on it. I even prayed. I said, 'Jesus, show me the way to get out of here without killing thisyer woman and getting sent to the penitentiary,' and durn if He didn't. I got up one morning at just daylight and I went in her room without my pants on and pulled the sheet off her and giver a heart attact" (WB 24). The Page 21 incompatibility between Christ and O'Connor's grotesques gives her satire its special bite.

I grabbed the book and opened it at random. My eyes fell on this passage from "The River": "[A] huge old man sat like a humped stone on the bumper of a long ancient automobile bent forward with his hands hanging between his knees and his small eyes half closed" (Complete Short Stories 166). I was immediately struck by the resemblance between this hideously funny old man and the mocking gargoyle under my armsame body, same stance. That resemblance compelled me to read more. Balancing the statue as best I could, I flipped through the book's pages and met other engaging monstrosities: a one-armed handyman with a fetish for cars, a mummified Civil War veteran, a weasely salesman who collects prosthetics.

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