Author

Kathryn Giles

Date of Award

2012

First Advisor

Jamie Hutchinson

Second Advisor

Bernard F. Rodgers, Jr.

Abstract

This thesis explores Christian concerns in the poetry of Emily Dickinson and short stories of Flannery O’Connor. Despite the fact that they were writing in different centuries, one a Calvinist Protestant and one a Catholic, the two are linked by their connecting of spiritual longing with physical hunger and consumption; their embrace of both spirit and matter, fact and symbol; and their search for a true understanding of Heaven that transcended the sentimental visions circulating within each of their faith traditions. The first and second chapters respectively explore poetic depictions of Dickinson’s exclusion from the rite of the Eucharist, and the longing for spiritual nourishment experienced by the two young children in O’Connor’s “The Lame Shall Enter First” and “The River.” Following this, I examine, in concert with the works of Ralph Waldo Emerson, Dickinson’s attachment to the natural world and the ways in which it provided her an alternate form of spiritual communion. Similarly, using the writings of Pierre Teilhard de Chardin, I look at O’Connor’s rejection of a Manichean dualism, and hand-in-hand with this, her affirmation of the human body and earthly life. The life to come is then the focus of the final two chapters, the first of which considers Dickinson’s dismissal of stifling images of Heaven and despair at the prospect of the denial of Christ’s grace. The concluding chapter offers a Lukan interpretation of O’Connor’s “Revelation.”

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