Date of Award


Document Type




First Reader

Dr. Doug Sonheim

Second Reader

Dr. Amy Sonheim

Third Reader

Dr. Steven Thomason


While much has been written about Flannery O'Connor and her approach to Christianity in fiction, fewer critics have examined Marilynne Robinson or compared the two authors. Yet, as American, Christian women who write compelling fiction, rooted in place, about their faith in twentieth century (though Robinson has written well into the twenty-first), these two authors have every reason to become better acquainted. And though Robinson will never have the chance to sit down to tea with Flannery O'Connor, she undoubtedly writes in the shadow of this mysterious young woman's fiery southern voice. To write fiction about Christianity-at least the kind more often found in anthologies than a Lifeway Christian Bookstore-is to write in the tradition of Flannery O'Connor, whether one likes it or not. What's more, where Robinson has only in the last decade received the wide recognition she deserves, winning the Pulitzer Prize in 2004, O'Connor's work has been thoroughly explored for the last half of a century. Flannery's been around the block, you might say, and her work concerns the same ideas that concern Marilynne Robinson. For these reasons, the two merit comparison, warrant a good conversation over an equally good cup of tea. In fact, it only makes sense that the ice breaker at tea time with Marilynne and Flannery might go something like this:

FOC: So, I guess you know I'm a pretty big deal.

And continue a little like this: MR: Yea? Did you ever win a Pulitzer?

FOC: Alright, how many books have been written about you? Listen, let me tell you a little bit about how critics talk about my fiction and faith. Maybe if you' re lucky, they might just talk about you like that someday too.

MR: Okay, okay, I feel that.

In all seriousness, it only makes sense that from the well-developed critical conversation about O'Connor, readers might discover a relevant way to analyze Robinson, furthering scholarship for both authors. Reading Marilynne Robinson through the lens of Flannery O'Connor would not only add to the growing conversation that surrounds Robinson's work, but would further enrich scholarship on O'Connor as it examined her work as a basis for interpreting other authors.



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