stories don’t lie when left to themselves, says O’Connor

October 30, 2008

Gregory Wolfe on Flannery O’Connor (below) gives me language to describe my criteria & love for good art.

In one sense, O’Connor’s writing gave her the opportunity to learn and relearn the virtues of self-knowledge and humility: by seeing her own sinfulness in some of her characters she recognized her own need for mercy. But O’Connor did not believe that art is merely self-expression – another problematic legacy of the Romantic era. Rather, she saw herself as a “Christian realist,” and believed that art had to do justice to the world beyond the self. In one of her letters O’Connor writes: “Maritain says that to produce a work of art requires the ‘constant attention of the purified mind,’ and the business of purified mind in this case is to see that those elements of the personality that don’t bear on the subject at hand are excluded. Stories don’t lie when left to themselves. Everything has to be subordinated to a whole which is not you. Any story I reveal myself completely in will be a bad story.”

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