“If you’re a writer and the South is what you know, then it’s what you’ll write about and how you judge it will depend on how you judge yourself. It’s perhaps good and necessary to get away from it physically for a while, but this is by no means to escape it. I stayed away from the time I was 20 until I was 25 with the notion that the life of my writing depended on my staying away. I would certainly have persisted in that delusion had I not got very ill and had to come home. The best of my writing has been done here.”
-Flannery O’Connor, 7/16/1957, To Cecil Dawkins, Habit of Being
Mary Flannery O’Connor spent most of her short life in Georgia during the middle of the 20th century. Although she did go away to the University of Iowa for her MFA (where she dropped the “Mary” from her professional name) and spent time in the New York literary environment, her illness forced her back to Milledgeville, Georgia for the last third of her life where she wrote most of her short stories, novels, and essays.
Georgia College and Milledgeville, Georgia are the best places to start finding out about Flannery O’Connor’s life and times. Andalusia, her home, now a historic house museum, provides an intimate glimpse into what O’Connor’s writing life was like as well as insight on mid-20th Century farm life. It has preserved many of the original artifacts from the house that were part of O’Connor’s life during her illness.
Ina Dillard Russell Library of Georgia College houses the Flannery O’Connor Collection. While the casual visitor can look at some O’Connor items in the Special Collections Museum, the collection itself contains letters, manuscripts, film, photos, and memorabilia from the O’Connor family and O’Connor scholars. Since Flannery O’Connor was an alumna of Georgia College, the Collection is the core repository for information about her. For instance, her extensive personal library, with annotations in her own hand, is housed there. Online, one can find a short summary of her life, research aids, and general assistance in learning about O’Connor and her works.
The Georgia College English Department provides rich resources for those interested in Flannery O’Connor. Aside from renowned O’Connor scholars, Dr. Bruce Gentry, Dr. Jordan Cofer, and Dr. Sarah Gordon (Emerita), the department supports the Flannery O’Connor Review and a vigorous creative writing program taught by working writers that also produces a literary journal, Arts & Letters.
If you want to know the sound of Milledgeville during Flannery O’Connor’s era, enjoy the virtual exhibition developed by Evan Leavitt from Special Collections at Ina Dillard Russell Library of Georgia College, “The Soul of Georgia.” An exhibit of juke joints, rhythm and blues, and central Georgia, this will give you a whole different perspective on O’Connor’s home town: Click Here