Arts

Flannery O’Connor Inspired By Irish, Southern Storytellers

Georgia writer and artist Flannery O'Connor grew up in Savannah, but lived at her home ''Andalusia'' in Milledgeville until her death in 1964.
Georgia writer and artist Flannery O'Connor grew up in Savannah, but lived at her home ''Andalusia'' in Milledgeville until her death in 1964.
Credit / andalusiafarm.org

Rosemary Magee speaks with Rose Scott.

St. Patrick’s Day is a holiday that seems to celebrate a lot of things here in America ─ beer, the color green, more beer ─ but at its core is a celebration of Irish Catholic heritage.

Last year, Emory University’s Manuscript, Archives and Rare Books Library (MARBL) acquired the extensive archives of Georgia’s most famous Irish Catholic writer: Flannery O’Connor.

Rosemary Magee, director of the library, joined Rose Scott in the “A Closer Look” studio to talk about the collection and the woman who many may consider to be Georgia’s greatest fiction writer.

O’Connor grew up in an “Irish Catholic enclave” in Savannah in the 1930s and 1940s, where she would have annually witnessed the “wild and crazy elements of Savannah, even then on St. Patrick’s Day,” according to Magee. 

However, O’Connor did not feel strong emotional or sentimental ties to her Irish roots, Magee said.

“Irish in America are sometimes more Irish than the Irish,” O’Connor wrote of her community in Savannah.

But Magee said the famous author did draw literary inspiration from Irish authors, including James Joyce, as well as from southern culture.

The Irish, like the Southerners, are great storytellers,” Magee said, “and so she was surrounded by great storytellers throughout her life.”

Although Magee admitted she was unsure of how O’Connor would have felt about today’s St. Patrick’s Day festivities in Savannah and elsewhere around the state, but said that O’Connor “would not suffer foolish behavior gladly.” 

Emory’s extensive archive of O’Connor’s letters, drafts, drawings and early works was acquired in October of last year. 

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