Dark Faith

New Essays on Flannery O'Connor's The Violent Bear It Away

Edited by Susan Srigley

Dark Faith: New Essays on Flannery O’Connor’s The Violent Bear It Away is a rich study of O’Connor’s second novel by nine scholars in the fields of American literature, theology, and religious studies. Each essay is a penetrating look at the complexity of O’Connor’s religious vision, taking seriously the darker turns of faith, the meaning of violence, and the centrality of love in her work. The thematic approach to the novel makes this an excellent companion to The Violent Bear It Away. Students and general readers alike will find new insights and thoughtful analyses of O’Connor’s haunting novel.

Richard Giannone’s opening essay sets the tone with a study of three of O’Connor’s most memorable characters, Hazel Motes, The Misfit, and Francis Tarwater, and their spiritual struggles to find meaning amid the darkness of their unbelief. John F. Desmond and Gary M. Ciuba address the complex question of family relations. Jason Peters analyzes abstraction in the novel, and Ruthann Knechel Johansen compares O’Connor’s work with essays by Simone Weil on the topic of affliction. Scott Huelin approaches the novel from the perspective of theological ethics. P. Travis Kroeker and Karl E. Martin explore its biblical themes, and Susan Srigley ends the collection with a study of the relationships between the living and the dead.

Susan Srigley is associate professor in the department of religions and cultures at Nipissing University. She is the author of _Flannery O’Connor’s Sacramental Art _ (University of Notre Dame Press, 2005).

Contributors: Susan Srigley, Richard Giannone, John F. Desmond, Gary M. Ciuba, Jason Peters, Ruthann Knechel Johansen, Scott Huelin, P. Travis Kroeker, and Karl E. Martin.

“Dark Faith: New Essays on Flannery O’Connor’s The Violent Bear It Away will make a welcome companion to Michael Kreyling’s collection New Essays on Wise Blood. The essays in Susan Srigley’s ‘new essays’ will assist critics and readers probing the complex terrain of violence not only in O’Connor’s second (and last) novel, but in all her fiction. Serious students of the novel or of O’Connor’s thought and artistry will find numerous rewards in its pages.” — Joseph M. Flora, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill

“Dark Faith is a rich collection of perspectives on O’Connor’s second novel, a work frequently overlooked by critics. The reader will find much to illuminate a careful reading of The Violent Bear It Away, including fresh theological insights and detailed discussions of imagery and symbols. Of particular interest are Richard Giannone’s analysis of ditch imagery and Gary Ciuba’s consideration of adoption as both a social and thematic concern. This collection should be on the shelves of every serious student of O’Connor’s fiction.” — Sarah Gordon, author of Flannery O’Connor: The Obedient Imagination and A Literary Guide to Flannery O’Connor’s Georgia

“Flannery O’Connor would be pleased with Dark Faith. Susan Srigley gives us nine essays, religiously informed, in tribute to O’Connor’s second great novel, and The Violent Bear It Away deserves all the attention this volume will bring. The contributors—including such leading O’Connor scholars as Gary M. Ciuba, John F. Desmond, Richard Giannone, Ruthann Knechel Johansen, and editor Srigley—provide nuanced readings in which the complexities of each of the novel’s major characters are investigated.” — Marshall Bruce Gentry, Flannery O’Connor Review, Georgia College


“It is a collection of essays by critics who are careful to relate O’Connor’s fiction to her profoundly Roman Catholic faith, delving deeply into her second novel, The Violent Bear It Away, to reveal the intricacies of an aesthetic that is both grounded in theology and true to the most stringent demands of the art of fiction. This is a book that will appeal to the reader who has been attracted to O’Connor’s grotesque characters but who has also struggled with the apparent darkness of her vision.” — The Journal of Southern Religion

“Literary criticism, a niche pursuit, is often a lofty, parochial sport with many participants drafted from academia. That said, this particular collection of essays reveals the genre at its most exacting as Dark Faith dissects disorderly journeys from ditch to eternal destiny through the offerings of nine admired minds. Mary Flannery O’Connor would be pleased!” — New Oxford Review

“[Dark Faith] is clearly focused on a single aspect of O’Connor’s most complex work—namely, her refusal to write as a triumphalist Catholic who flattens her secular opponents with the hard fist of orthodoxy. Quite to the contrary, her work is built on a drastically contested faith characterized by its descent into the abyss of divine absence rather than an ascent to the heights of divine presence.” — Flannery O’Connor Review