"Reconstructing" Flannery O'Connor

deadline for submissions: 
February 8, 2024
full name / name of organization: 
The Flannery O'Connor Society
contact email: 


Flannery O’Connor Society

Society for the Study of Southern Literature

2024 Biannual Conference

June 23-26, 2024

Courtyard by Marriot Beachfront | Gulfport, Mississippi


“Reconstructing” Flannery O’Connor


The Flannery O’Connor Society invites abstract submissions for a proposed panel at the Society for the Study of Southern Literature’s biannual conference in Gulfport, Mississippi from June 23-26th, 2024. This panel’s theme is, broadly, “‘Reconstructing’ Flannery O’Connor,” in line with SSSL’s conference theme of “Reconstruction(s).” 

In the essay “Beyond the Peacock: The Reconstruction of Flannery O’Connor” from her collection In Search of Our Mothers’ Gardens: Womanist Prose, Alice Walker reflects on Flannery O’Connor’s writing and its impact on her own sense of place and history. In one poignant conversation with her mother over lunch, Walker reflects on her mother saying: “When you make these trips back south […] just what is it exactly that you’re looking for?” Walker replies, “‘A wholeness […] because everything around me is split up, deliberately split up. History split up, literature split up, and people are split up too. It makes people do ignorant things” (48). Walker then discusses a meeting she attended on Mississippi history and literature with a group of librarians, ruminating on how “alive” the legacy of the Civil War was for the white women in attendance. Recognizing the racial disparity in views of history, Walker urges that “the truth of any subject only comes when all the sides of the story are put together, and all their different meanings make one new one,” but she concludes on her mother’s stance: “Well, I doubt if you can ever get the true missing parts of anything away from the white folks […] they’ve sat on the truth so long by now they’ve mashed the life out of it” (49).

Walker’s essay is one effort to make sense of Flannery O’Connor’s work in light of the history of a “reconstructed” South, especially in its consideration of how, in O’Connor depictions of southern white women, “not a whiff of magnolia hovered in the air (and the tree itself might never have been planted)” (52). In a similar vein, this proposed panel seeks to further explore, “reconstruct,” and reconsider O’Connor’s writing. Possible topics could include, but are not limited to:

  • “Reconstruction(s)” of gender, sexuality, race, ability, or religion in O’Connor’s fiction and prose
  • Historical perspectives on “Lost Cause” mythos alive or complicated in O’Connor’s fiction
  • Meta-analyses of how mid-century authors like O’Connor are being “reconsidered” in contemporary scholarship
  • Analyses of how places are “reconstructed” in O’Connor’s fiction
  • Considerations of how authorial legacies become “reconstructed” by contemporary readers, especially through contemporary engagements with an author’s letters and autobiographical prose
  • Explorations of the grotesque and southern gothic, especially in the liminal space between southern history and postwar modernity

The Flannery O’Connor Society invites abstracts (of no more than 300 words) that speak to the above themes (and more). To read more about SSSL’s conference theme of “Reconstruction(s),” please visit the Society’s website or SSSL’s Facebook group.   


Please send abstracts to Dr. Rachel Bryan (rbryan5@vols.utk.edu) by Thursday, February 8th, 2024. Please include your name, email, and a short bio (100 words) with the abstract. Presenters must be members of the Flannery O’Connor Society by the time of the conference. Information about the conference’s fee and reserved hotel rate can be found on SSSL’s website (https://275.70c.myftpupload.com/conference/). Information about the Flannery O’Connor Society, including how to join, can be found on the Society’s website (http://flannerysociety.org).