Date of Award
Master of Arts (MA)
By situating an analysis of Flannery O’Connor’s short fiction in conversation with Edith Stein’s theology of gender, this project contributes to the critical conversation that interprets O’Connor’s fiction through various feminist frameworks. I respond by proposing an alternative feminist framework that centers O’Connor’s sacramental or incarnational vision of the human body and her characters’ movement from fallenness to redemption. Stein’s theology posits that men and women live their fallenness and redemption in differentiated ways that correspond to their embodied masculinity and femininity, respectively. For men, participating in redemption involves imitating the sacrificial love of Christ’s crucifixion. For women, participating in redemption involves imitating Christ’s mother by paradoxically living out both spiritual maternity and spiritual virginity, which is possible in various states of life and professions. I argue that O’Connor’s short fiction dramatizes and embodies Stein’s theology of gender posited in her Essays on Woman, which I refer to as “Catholic feminism.” To illustrate my argument, I examine eight of O’Connor’s short stories through the lens of Stein’s Catholic feminism. Chapter one argues that O’Connor’s stories “A View of the Woods” (1957), “The Life You Save May Be Your Own” (1953), and “Parker’s Back” (1965) dramatize a movement from fallen masculinity to redeemed masculinity, culminating in the male character’s identification with Christ. Chapter two argues that O’Connor’s stories “Good Country People” (1955), “Greenleaf” (1956), and “A Good Man Is Hard to Find” (1953) dramatize a movement from fallen femininity to redeemed femininity, with a particular focus on the spiritual maternity of their characters. Chapter three argues that O’Connor’s stories “The Crop” (1947), “Good Country People” (1955), and “A Temple of the Holy Ghost” (1955) also dramatize a movement from fallen femininity to redeemed femininity, focusing more particularly on the spiritual virginity and individuality of their characters. I conclude that a Steinian reading of O’Connor’s fiction invites new readings that harmonize her redemptive and incarnational vision with the critical concerns raised by other theoretical lenses.
English Language and Literature
Catholicism, Edith Stein, Feminism, Flannery O'Connor, Literature, Theology
Number of Pages
University of South Dakota
Pugh, Amanda, "Redeeming Femininity: A Steinian Catholic Feminist Reading of Flannery O'Connor's Short Fiction" (2023). Dissertations and Theses. 158.