A Blood that Is Wise: Flannery O’Connor and the “Nouvelle Théologie”
Abstract: The imaginative problem of Flannery O’Connor’s first novel Wise Blood is that of locating the hidden donnée of Roman Catholicism in a region – the South of the 1950s – which had few historical traces of this system of belief. This is why O’Connor has to write the story of Hazel Motes’s founding of the Church Without Christ through a technique of indirection, one in which Motes’s negation of the supernatural negates itself. Yet since O’Connor understands the Catholic Church as an institutional body that exists within history, she must ingeniously connect to Motes’s “private” mysticism after his Pauline conversion to an ecclesia. Here the suggestions in Wise Blood of the existence of concealed structures within the temporal and the natural reflect the debates in the Catholicism of the 1940s and 1950s, particularly those concerning the nouvelle théologie. Finally, the paper will try to apply to Wise Blood the concept of the fable as this is understood by Michel de Certeau, one of the inheritors of the nouvelle théologie. The fable is that type of discourse that is sustained only by its utterance and which precedes the distinction between the literary and the theological.
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