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Writing a Theology of Disabled Humanity
Flannery O’Connor is one of America’s most unique Southern authors. Shortly after she began her writing career she was diagnosed with lupus. Despite her illness, O’Connor authored more than two dozen short stories and two novels. Her highly regionalized Southern Gothic stories often involve grotesque characters.
Literature critic and theologian Timothy J. Basselin consults O’Connor’s life and work to illustrate the profound connections existing between the theme of the grotesque and Christian theology. O’Connor’s own disability, Basselin argues, inspired a theology that leads readers toward greater recognition of God’s activity in a sinfully grotesque world. By combining disability studies, literary critique, and theological reflection, Basselin discovers a new vision for approaching the disabled, the grotesque, and the other in society. Flannery O’Connor reignites O’Connor’s own critiques of the modern affinity for perfection, self-sufficiency, and a clear separation between “good” and “bad.”
1 The Face of the Good Is Grotesque, Too
2 The Grotesque Good in O’Connor’s Fiction
3 Baptizing Modernity
4 The Image of Christ and a Disability Perspective
Postscript: Complications of Language and Representation
“In a contemporary Christian world that looks too often for ‘instant uplift,’ for easy answers to hard questions, is there any voice more important than Flannery O'Connor's? Her grotesques, so often misunderstood, prophesy against our idols and false gospels. Timothy Basselin is uniquely qualified to show, with remarkable insight and clarity, how the brokenness in O'Connor's fiction points the way to the gospel.”
—Jonathan Rogers, author of The Terrible Speed of Mercy: A Spiritual Biography of Flannery O'Connor
“Basselin takes readers on a revealing and riveting journey into the heart of O’Connor’s fiction, where imperfect characters grapple with sin in a fallen world. By plumbing the mysterious depths of O’Connor’s grotesques, Basselin points the way to recognizing in the faces of suffering humanity the startling visage of Christ and shows how acceptance of suffering opens the floodgates to grace, not just in O’Connor's fiction, but in real life too."
—Dr. Lorraine V. Murray, author of The Abbess of Andalusia: Flannery O’Connor’s Spiritual Journey
"...Basselin offers an as yet under-utilized approach to mine the subtexts of O'Conner's work."
—Mary Jo lozzio, Boston College, Theological Studies
"On the whole, Basselin’s work is a valuable contribution to O’Connor scholarship, particularly with its exploration of the significance of her theological vision in relation to the frequent but underexamined representation of disability in her fiction, expanding the potential for future critical conversations about the role and representation of people with disabilities in O'Connor's work."
—Jenny Bangsund, Flannery O’Connor Review (12)
“This book is the perfect antidote to the prosperity gospel, both the gauche ones we see on TV and the subtler shades of Baalism we find in our own hearts.”
—Russell D. Moore, President of the Southern Baptist Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission
"This work is a laudable endeavor to explore uncovered territory of O’Connor, and one which should prove valuable to any institution serving patrons studying, or exhibiting interest in subjects of Flannery O’Connor, disability studies, biblical parallels in literature, and literature history pertaining to the Southern Gothic genre."
—Zach Valdes, Sam Houston State University, Journal of American Culture
"In 'The Regional Writer,' Flannery O'Connor states that limitation provides 'a gateway to reality.' Timothy J. Basselin’s Flannery O’Connor: Writing a Theology of Disabled Humanity offers a gateway to understanding how O'Connor's fiction led her to a profound literary vision and theological perspective on the grace and mystery of disability."
—Rosemary M. Magee, Vice President and Secretary of Emory University; Director of the Manuscript, Archives, and Rare Book Library, Emory; and author of Conversations with Flannery O'Connor
Timothy J. Basselin is Assistant Professor of Media Arts and Worship at Dallas Theological Seminary.