Introduction to “A Subversive Gospel” (IVP)

A Subversive Gospel: Flannery O’Connor and the Reimagining of Beauty, Goodness, and Truth by Michael Mears Bruner (Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 2017).

There may never be anything new to say, but there is always a new way to say it. — Flannery O’Connor, Mystery and Manners . . .

This book makes the argument that, through her fiction, Flannery O’Connor subverted the conventional notions of truth, goodness, and beauty, not merely from a position of Christian dogma but out of aesthetic impulse. . . .

In order to understand [Flannery] O’Connor’s subversion [of conventional notions of beauty, goodness, and truth], I am suggesting that we apply a kind of crucifix hermeneutic to her fiction—a kind of crosshairs reading that alerts us to the fact that when something violent happens in her stories, or someone is or says or does something foolish, or something terrible or awful appears, there is a decent chance that O’Connor is actually trying to show us something good, true, or beautiful, respectively. We look to the example of Jesus on the cross, whose death was violent even by Roman standards, whose cry of dereliction was ridiculed as he was left hanging on the tree for dead, and whose form was marred beyond recognition. In that cosmic and very local moment, goodness, truth, and beauty reached their divine apex, thus not merely extending but exhausting—even exploding—the categories of the Greeks and thenceforth establishing a new order of things, a new way of seeing. . . .

She was a fiercely independent thinker of the most rarified kind, not by simply opposing stodgy or traditional ways of thinking (which would have simply been fashionable) but by resisting the fashions of the day, both literary and religious. — A Subversive Gospel: Flannery O’Connor and the Reimagining of Beauty, Goodness, and Truth by Michael Mears Bruner (InterVarsity Press, 2017, 1-3).

Thank-you to InterVarsity Press for bringing A Subversive Gospel to my attention!

  • I am inspired to give deeper consideration to Flannery O’Connor’s writing. If you are familiar with her work and have particular recommendations of material I should explore, please let me know. Thank-you.
  • I found A Subversive Gospel a great example of a dissertation turned into a publication. I particularly appreciated the author’s brief description of how he became familiar with O’Connor and decided to consider her work for his dissertation. I pray that students in the humanities will find this chapter an encouragement.
  • If you desire to review A Subversive Gospel for the Emerging Scholars Network blog, please let me know. Thank-you.

Related: Bob Trube’s review of Modern Art and the Life of a Culture: The Religious Influences of Modernism by Jonathan A. Anderson and William A. Dyrness (Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 2016). For additional Emerging Scholars Network blog posts tagged art click here.

Note: Thank-you to Scott who pointed out the misspelling of O’Connor’s last name. Revisions have been made.

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Tom Grosh IV

Enjoys daily conversations regarding living out the Biblical Story with his wife Theresa, four girls, around the block, at Elizabethtown Brethren in Christ Church (where he hosts the Christian Scholar Series), on campus as part of InterVarsity Graduate & Faculty Ministry (serving fellowships such as the Christian Medical Society/CMDA at Penn State College of Medicine), online as the Associate Director of the Emerging Scholars Network, in the culture at large, and in God's creation.

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