Saturday, April 23, 2011

Final Blog

Before break, I attend the exhibit at the Loyola Notre Dame Library, “Letters from Andalusia.” The exhibit highlights writer Flannery O’Connor’s unique relationship with the College of Notre Dame of Maryland. O’Connor was not only the most important female Catholic writer of the 20th century, but was also a treasured correspondent of poet and College of Notre Dame English professor Maura Eichner, SSND ’41, through late 1963 and early 1964. O’Connor’s letters to Sister Maura offer insight on her abiding Catholic faith, as reflected in her body of work. Andalusia refers to the O’Connor ancestral farm. Flannery returned to the farm in 1951 when she was diagnosed with lupus. The letters between Sister Maura and Flannery O’Connor take place during O’Connor’s battle with the disease.

The exhibit holds special meaning to me. My junior year Theology teacher had much respect for Flannery O’Connor as a writer. As a result, we spent nearly three months analyzing some of her works. Some examples of what we read are “A Good Man Is Hard to Find,” “ Everything That Rises Must Converge,” and “The Lame Shall Enter First.” Her works although usually grotesque and startling, reflect her strong Catholic faith. It was interesting to see examples of her faith through personal correspondences rather than her short stories.

Letters are a motif repeated throughout the play Twelfth Night by William Shakespeare. The play features several messages sent from one character to another. The messages are sometimes sent as letters and other times in the form of tokens, such as Olivia sending a ring to Cesario. Such messages are used for purposes of communication. An example is Maria’s letter to Malvolio. Maria pretends to be Olivia in an attempt to trick Malvolio to believe Olivia loves him. Another example is Sir Andrew’s letter demanding a duel with Cesario, Viola. These two are actually opposites of O’Connor and Sister Maura’s correspondence. These letters are meant to deceive, or so poorly written, they shouldn’t be delivered.

Malvolio writes a letter more like the famous messages between the religious women. Malvolio who is isolated in a dark room writes a letter proving his sanity. The letters leads to Olivia’s comprehension of a confusing situation and Malvolio’s release from his imprisonment. Flannery O’Connor is also isolated, but on her ancestral farm rather than a dark room. Her letters are ones of clarification as well. They are meant to explain faith. Despite her isolation, O’Connor had a deep understanding of human nature. She was able to write about human ethics, how they relate to morality, and how to practically apply faith in a modern world. Her letters take people out of the dark rooms of their lives and into the light of a new, strong faith.

We began to discuss what was the most surprising thing we learned in class this semester. Although several other people said what I want to, I will repeat it because it is very true for me. I was struck by the fact that I enjoyed poetry. My senior year, I had a horrible English teacher who made me dread going to class. Coming from such a bad experience and into a class with positive energy was a major adjustment. With the support provided by my classmates as well as Dr. Ellis, I realized I could understand poetry. It wasn’t a foreign concept, too lofty for me to understand as my previous teacher presented it. I’m not sure I will ever be a poetry aficionado, but I now have a respect for it as a literary form and will never be afraid to dive into a poem.

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