Journal Article

CHRISTIAN APOLOGETIC USES OF THE GROTESQUE IN JOHN IRVING AND FLANNERY O'CONNOR

John Sykes

in Literature and Theology

Volume 10, issue 1, pages 58-67
Published in print March 1996 | ISSN: 0269-1205
e-ISSN: 1477-4623 | DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.1093/litthe/10.1.58
CHRISTIAN APOLOGETIC USES OF THE GROTESQUE IN JOHN IRVING AND FLANNERY O'CONNOR

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In A Prayer for Owen Meany John Irving proves himself to be an heir of Nathaniel Hawthorne in much the same sense as Flannery O'Connor. Each writer employs the category of the supernatural in writing what Hawthorne called romances. In the fictions of O'Connor and Irving, the romance takes on a grotesque character. I argue diat the grotesque has a specifically religious meaning in these works Irving and O'Connor use it to explore the nature of Christian conversion.

Using Hans Frei and Karl Barth I point out differences between the writers' understandings of die supernatural. Irving seems to speak for a particular kind of religious experience as the ground of Christian belief. Supernatural occurrences which violate naturalistic assumptions make religious belief credible. O'Connor's vision is by contrast sacramental; personal revelation for her is a matter of seeing the whole of reality in a new trinitarian light

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Subjects: Literature ; Religion and Art, Literature, and Music

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