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28. Flannery O'Connor

Susan Castillo

Subject Literature » American Literature

Place United States of America » American South

People O'Connor, Flannery

DOI: 10.1111/b.9780631224044.2004.00029.x


The Southern novelist Flannery O'Connor once remarked that all of us are grotesque in one way or another, though we rarely realize this about ourselves, and that indeed what is considered normal is often grotesque, while the grotesque itself is the stuff of everyday reality. An example of this are the bizarre road signs which flank Southern highways and which are a source of endless delight for the semiotician. Though it would be difficult to choose a favorite (serious contenders would be “Do not shoot from highway,” “Get Right with God,” and the truculent “Don't mess with Texas,”), my own personal choice is “Read Signs,” spotted near Pelahatchie, Mississippi. Clearly, there is a logical contradiction at work here; if one does not read signs, one is hardly likely to be galvanized into doing so by reading the one in question. As a person who was born and raised in the American South, I have always been a bit bemused by the to-do over what critics (particularly those who hail from points north of the Mason Dixon line) call the Southern Grotesque or the Southern Gothic. The abundance, in texts by Southern writers, of references to the distorted, freakish, and absurd elements which seem to be woven into the texture of everyday life are, as any Southerner can attest, not mere stylistic devices but rather Aristotelian mimesis of the first water: Southern life really is like that. One ... log in or subscribe to read full text

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