Published October 16, 2014
DECATUR—Emory University’s Manuscript, Archives and Rare Book Library (MARBL) has acquired the archive of iconic writer Flannery O’Connor from the Mary Flannery O’Connor Charitable Trust in Milledgeville.
The archive consists of the papers of O’Connor from the 1930s throughout her life and contains correspondence, writings, artwork; journals and notebooks; photographs, slides, negatives and scrapbooks; printed material and clippings; legal and financial records; and awards.
The correspondence includes more than 600 letters, often on a daily basis, between O’Connor and her mother Regina, as well as outgoing letters to family, friends and other writers.
Other highlights of the archive are O’Connor’s “A Prayer Journal,” published last year, and a personal journal labeled “Higher Mathematics I.” The personal journal includes ruminations on the art and craft of writing. Many family photographs of O’Connor are also included, and most have not been seen outside the family. The writer’s rosary, Communion veil and eyeglasses are also part of the collection.
“This archive is a distinctive collection that will provide new opportunities for teaching and research about O’Connor and modern literature,” said Rosemary M. Magee, director of MARBL. “The materials place O’Connor’s inner journey within the context of her public journey as a major voice in American literature. We see her development as an artist along with her spiritual pilgrimage.”
“At long last, Flannery’s archive is where my sister Margaret and I had always wanted it to be,” said Louise Florencourt, cousin of O’Connor and co-trustee of the Mary Flannery O’Connor Charitable Trust.
Michael J. Garanzini, co-trustee with Florencourt and president of Loyola University Chicago, expressed his pleasure “that the papers have found a home at Emory, whose reputation for good stewardship is well-known.”
“We couldn’t be more excited to house her materials, from her earliest writings and handmade books, to her early poetry, hundreds of photographs, unpublished writings and extensive unpublished correspondence,” said Kevin Young, curator of literary collections and the Raymond Danowski Poetry Library at MARBL. “Even reading a portion of this collection, O’Connor’s humor and fierce faith come at us in waves, offering a new perspective on the South, writing and O’Connor herself.”
The archive’s arrival at Emory is a major milestone in a relationship between the university and the O’Connor family that began more than 50 years ago, said Magee. She cites correspondence in the archive between her predecessors at Emory and the O’Connor family dating from the 1960s. During her lifetime, O’Connor visited the university and spoke to classes, and was a patient at Emory University Hospital. She died of complications from lupus in 1964.
The archive joins an array of O’Connor materials at MARBL acquired over the last several decades.
O’Connor’s archive is part of a world-class repository of collections of modern literature, particularly 20th-century American, British and Irish poetry; African American literature, history and culture; and an extensive collection on the American South. The collection includes Nobel laureate Seamus Heaney’s papers, British poet laureate Ted Hughes’ papers, Alice Walker’s archive, the papers of Benny and Raymond Andrews, Salman Rushdie’s archive and the 70,000-volume Danowski Poetry Library.
Magee noted that the O’Connor archive “will be a centerpiece of our collection in modern literature and provide a rich source of primary evidence about a major American figure that students, faculty and other researchers will explore for many years to come.”
The papers are open for research in the MARBL reading room, and a preliminary inventory of the papers is available online.
For more information on visiting MARBL, located in the Robert W. Woodruff Library on the main campus of Emory University, visit here.