Dienstag, 13. Februar 2018
Freeing Myself from Grad School, I Rediscover Flannery O’Connor and the Medieval Mystics / Alice Lesperance
Here’s a timeline: in 1373, Julian of Norwich writes a list of revelations after a near-death experience. In the mid-1430s, Margery Kempe pens a book about her life. In 1946, Flannery O’Connor starts keeping a record of her prayers. In the fall of 2015, I start writing my master’s thesis.
At the time I begin my thesis, I’m living in Brooklyn, and I’m excruciatingly sad. I live in a split-level house where I rent a room so small that, while sitting on my bed, I can touch all four walls at once. Three semesters into grad school, I propose a thesis I never expected to write—on Flannery, Julian, and Margery. Two of these women—Julian and Margery—met one another, and wrote two distinct texts that I’d found myself returning to again and again as a student of medieval literature. Flannery O’Connor was a Southern writer whose work I hadn’t read. Why did I choose to write about the three of them together? Why did I feel like I
to write about them?
Let’s take a step back. The year I start graduate school, I discover Flannery’s prayer journals. Flannery O’Connor wrote down her prayers as if they were conversations with a very close friend, because they were. They’re intimate and earnest and incredibly funny. At this point in time, I’m up to my eyeballs in texts written by people, mostly men, who never saw the other side of the fifteenth century, and I’m looking for something else. Then, Flannery’s journals. This woman whose diary entries took the form of prayers—I find them, and I’m overcome with homesickness for the South. I’m caught by her humor.
Religious figurines that sat by Flannery's childhood bed. Photo courtesy of the author.
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