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Narrating Knowledge in Flannery O'Connor's Fiction

Donald E. Hardy

A linguistic approach to the novels and short stories of Flannery O'Connor

In Narrating Knowledge in Flannery O'Connor's Fiction, Donald E. Hardy examines themes in Flannery O'Connor's fiction concerning the limitations of human knowledge. He argues that attending to O'Connor's stylistic strategies allows the best access to her views about knowledge in all its manifestations—spiritual, rational, and emotional—whether the knowledge is that of the narrator, the narratee, or the characters of her narratives. It also, he maintains, allows readers to appreciate the mysteries she sought to underscore.

Surveying O'Connor's fiction, early as well as late, Hardy concludes that the writer's differentiation between grades of knowledge, along with the intimations she offered of what lies behind knowledge—of the ineffable behind the rational—finds only partial expression in the content of her narratives and in her narrative summings-up. For a thorough understanding it is necessary to turn to her employment of certain linguistic devices open to analysis. These include dependent clauses, for rendering presuppositions explicit; negations, for blocking suppositions; and participials describing what is seen, for bringing out implications.

In a study completely accessible to readers of O'Connor who possess no background in stylistics, Hardy undertakes analyses that are both qualitative and quantitative, both comparative and statistical. By illuminating convictions of O'Connor's that are latent in but constitutive of her fiction, his exploration enlarges not only her readers' comprehension but their enjoyment as well. It also suggests refinements of linguistic hypotheses with consequences for the revision of interpretive and analytic models applicable to the investigation of a wide range of literature.

Donald E. Hardy is an associate professor of English at Northern Illinois University in DeKalb. He received his Ph.D. in linguistics and semiotics from Rice University. The executive editor of the literary journal Style, Hardy lives in DeKalb.

"Successfully weaving together sophisticated linguistic analysis with insightful literary criticism, Donald E. Hardy opens up new ways of understanding the crucial problem facing O'Connor and all writers of faith: how to use language to represent the ineffable. Hardy's analysis goes miles beyond all previous linguistic studies of O'Connor and takes us into entirely new territory in O'Connor studies. Learned, impressive, and provocative—a powerful combination."—Robert H. Brinkmeyer, University of Arkansas

"O'Connor's unique voice and style have awaited an informed book-length treatment for some time, and Donald E. Hardy's invaluable study now provides this. This highly readable account integrates linguistic technicalities with large literary-interpretive conclusions in ways that will be received enthusiastically by literary critics and literary linguists alike."—Michael Toolan, University of Birmingham



book jacket for Narrating Knowledge in Flannery O'Connor's Fiction


6 x 9
215 pages
ISBN 978-1-57003-475-6
hardcover, $39.95s


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