Georgia Bulletin

The Newspaper of the Catholic Archdiocese of Atlanta


Flannery O’Connor lecture at Emory University draws sellout crowd

Published October 30, 2014

ATLANTA—Dr. Bryan Giemza, the director of the Southern Historical Collection at the University of North Carolina, spoke to a sellout crowd at Emory University’s annual Flannery O’Connor lecture. His lecture was given on two nights to accommodate those interested.

Giemza’s remarks included research into Irish living in Georgia and the South, along with audio recordings of Irish leaders in Savannah from the time of O’Connor’s youth.

Giemza in his Oct. 6-7 speech highlighted how Irish Catholics in the South had to build their own community in an overwhelmingly Protestant homeland. The community embraced “an energetic Irish boosterism,” especially in O’Connor’s native Savannah, which hosts one of the largest St. Patrick’s Day celebrations in the world.

O’Connor didn’t like the boosterism, according to Giemza. The author did, however, absorb some of the traditional Irish Catholic views that emphasized a negative view about fallen human nature. The Irish emphasis, warning against pride and self-promotion, also entered into her writing and reflections, according to Giemza.

Phillip Thompson, the director of the Aquinas Center of Theology at Emory University, one of the hosts of the event, also welcomed news that the remaining O’Connor family materials are coming to Emory University. This includes over 600 letters, Flannery’s rewrites of manuscripts, stories that were never published, and personal artifacts like O’Connor’s rosary.

The archival material has been donated by the Flannery O’Connor Archive and its trustees, Louise Florencourt and Father Michael Garanzini, who also make possible the annual lecture, Thompson said.