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CONTACT: Charlie Bier
(337) 482-6477 charlie@louisiana.edu
Nov. 5, 2012
Recently Discovered Tape Prompts Symposium on Flannery O’Connor
A 50-year-old recording of Flannery O'Connor — uncovered by a UL Lafayette English professor — has inspired a symposium celebrating the author's work. “Flannery O’Connor: The Legacy of a Southern Catholic Writer” will be held Nov. 9 – 10, at Our Lady of Wisdom Catholic Student Center.

That's where O'Connor spoke in 1962, two years before she died at age 39. She was on tour, visiting universities in Texas and Louisiana.

Dr. Mary Ann Wilson found the recording last spring. She was cleaning out a filing cabinet when she came across a pink box, scuffed and torn. Written on it was "1962. Flannery O'Connor Lecture: The Catholic Writer in the Protestant South." Inside was a reel-to-reel tape.

"As soon as I saw it, I remembered that one of my colleagues had given it to me years ago. I was busy at the time and had simply forgotten about it," she said.

Wilson was unsure of the quality of the brittle tape. So, she enlisted the help of the Center for Louisiana Studies, which specializes in digitizing media.

What emerged was a 35-minute recording of O'Connor and her audience. O'Connor addresses them in a distinctive South Georgia drawl. They respond, often with laughter.

"Although she was a serious author, she certainly did not take herself seriously," said Wilson, who frequently teaches courses that explore O'Connor's work. Wilson, who joined the faculty in 1985, established the university's women's studies program.

O'Connor published two novels, "Wise Blood," and "The Violent Bear it Away," and several short stories. Two of them, "A Good Man is Hard to Find" and "Good Country People" are often included in anthologies.

In her writings, O'Connor dispensed dark humor and employed bizarre, larger-than-life characters. "She believed that the way to the spirit was through the flesh, through the physical. She said she had to create grotesque figures, so that people living in the 20th century would sit up and take notice,” Wilson said.

"She's such a rich writer. Although she is serious about her religion and her faith, she still manages to have humor in her stories, which keeps us coming back to them."

Excerpts from the 1962 recording will be played at the symposium, which will also include scholars talking about O'Connor's work and a panel discussion. Speakers include authorized O’Connor biographer William Sessions of Georgia State University, who will speak about O’Connor’s recently discovered journal of prayers; Christina Bieber Lake, professor of English at Wheaton College and the author of “The Incarnational Art of Flannery O’Connor”; and English professor Farrell O’Gorman from Belmont Abbey College, who will speak about O’Connor’s and Walker Percy’s shared vision in Southern fiction.

Events related to the symposium include a cocktail party; a Mass; and a themed dinner at the UL Lafayette Alumni Center, where a film based on O'Connor's short story, "The Displaced Person," will be shown. Tickets to the symposium and related events are available separately. The Friday evening cocktail party is $25, Saturday symposium $75, and Saturday evening dinner and a movie $50. A full event package is $150. Discounted tickets are available for students, UL Lafayette faculty, Catholic clergy and religious, and members of Friends of the Humanities.

The events are sponsored by the UL Lafayette English Department, Friends of the Humanities, Ragin' Cajun Catholics and Deep South Magazine.

For more information and a full schedule of activities, visit http://ourladyofwisdom.org/get-involved/symposium/, e-mail info@ourladyofwisdom.org, or call 337-232-8741.

Document last revised Monday, November 5, 2012 10:01 AM

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