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Hal Bush <[log in to unmask]>
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Mark Twain Forum <[log in to unmask]>
Tue, 16 Jun 2020 13:59:58 +0000
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Some of you might like to see this; Flannery O'Connor as prototypical Christian racist, from the respected scholar Paul Elie. It is already making the rounds, and promises to be a heavily-quoted and referred-to article.  Among other quotes, Elie writes: "in a passage now published for the first time: “You know, I’m an integrationist by principle & a segregationist by taste anyway. I don’t like negroes. They all give me a pain and the more of them I see, the less and less I like them. Particularly the new kind.”   Strong stuff!

I've taught her stories over many years; often in conjunction with texts by Mark Twain, in fact. Both are indeed problematic but I am a believer in teaching the conflicts.  Now I wonder if her stories have become just too radioactive? And since student research moves more and more steadily toward use of web-available Google-found articles like this one, get ready for this piece to show up repeatedly in Works Cited lists from coast to coast...

Probably there will soon be similar charges about other iconic writers, such as our own beloved Mark Twain.  Elie's title, asking "How Racist Was FOC?"-- suggests there are degrees we must be mindful of discerning; "racist" is not an on-off light switch, but rather more like a dimmer switch, possibly on low, medium, or high. Thus, I am also reminded of how the term "racist" itself has changed significantly since FOC died (1964).  Back then, calling Bull Connor or Gov. George Wallace a "racist" was different, and more like that on-of switch.  So we should ponder--and prepare, yet again, for the inevitable follow-ups. (On that note: email me personally if you might like to do a panel or something on these issues, in the near future; assuming such things as panels exist in the near future...).

More generally, this reminds me a bit of our culture's current, contested encounters with historical markers/ memorials of various kinds....along with their demolition. I welcome any thoughts and wisdom in these questions...
How Racist Was Flannery O’Connor?<>
She has become an icon of American letters. Now readers are reckoning with another side of her legacy.

Dr. Hal Bush

Professor of English &

Director of the Undergraduate Program

Saint Louis University

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