Georgia Bulletin

The Newspaper of the Catholic Archdiocese of Atlanta


Emory Hosts O’Connor Events Sept. 25-26

Published September 20, 2007

Emory University’s collection of letters by beloved Georgia author Flannery O’Connor unsealed in May will be opened Sept. 22 for the first public exhibition at Emory’s Manuscript, Archives and Rare Book Library (MARBL).

To kick off the exhibition opening, Atlanta actress Brenda Bynum will reprise her popular reading from O’Connor’s letters to Atlantan Betty Hester at 6 p.m. Tuesday, Sept. 25, at Emory’s Schwartz Center for Performing Arts.

The exhibit, titled “‘Dear Miss Hester’: Letters from Flannery O’Connor to Betty Hester, 1955-1964,” draws from the more than 250 letters written to Hester during that time period. Amplifying letters and manuscripts from the collection will be photographs, books and other memorabilia from MARBL’s collections that help tell the story of O’Connor’s life and art, as well as her friendship with Hester, says MARBL director Steve Enniss.

“The main focus of the exhibit is Flannery O’Connor’s correspondence with Hester, in whom she confided more than she did other correspondents,” Enniss said. “We selected letters that illustrate the larger social, cultural, literary and historical context of O’Connor’s life.”

Hester, who wrote unpublished stories, poems and philosophical essays, worked for Retail Credit Co. in Atlanta (now Equifax). She gave O’Connor’s letters to Emory in 1987, with the understanding that they would remain sealed for 20 years. The collection was opened for research use for the first time in May.

The materials donated by Hester include not only letters she received from O’Connor two or three times a month, but O’Connor manuscripts and a short story by Hester that O’Connor critiqued. The entire collection sheds light on O’Connor’s faith, her unusual imagination and her homebound life on her mother’s Milledgeville farm.

A two-day celebration to mark the exhibition’s debut is planned on the Emory campus Sept. 25 and 26 co-sponsored by the Aquinas Center of Theology at Emory University and the Woodruff Library at Emory. Presenters include Dr. Ralph Wood of Baylor University, Paul Elie, author of “The Life You Save May Be Your Own,” Brenda Bynum and Emory faculty.

“‘The Prophet’s Country’: A Celebration of the Life and Work of Flannery O’Connor” includes the Bynum reading; a day of panel discussions of O’Connor’s life and work; an exhibition of photographs of Andalusia, the farm where O’Connor lived with her mother; and a film screening of “Wise Blood,” based on the O’Connor novel of the same name.


For a complete schedule and list of speakers, see