Emory Report
January 26, 2009
Volume 61, Number 17



Emory Report homepage  

January 26
, 2009
Illuminating Flannery O’Connor

By kim urquhart

The papers of a pre-eminent scholar on Flannery O’Connor’s life and work have been acquired by Emory, and along with a related exhibition, offer new insights into the author’s most significant literary and personal friendships and a deeper understanding of her writing life.

The collection of letters, literary manuscripts, photographs and research materials belonging to the late Sally Fitzgerald are now at Emory’s Manuscript, Archives and Rare Book Library (MARBL). Fitzgerald, who died in 2000, was a close friend of O’Connor, editor of three books on O’Connor and her work, and a former research associate in the Institute for the Liberal Arts. Her papers were placed at Emory with funding from the Lewis H. Beck Educational Foundation and the Vasser Woolley Foundation.

Fitzgerald’s friendship with O’Connor began when she lived with the Fitzgeralds for two years in rural Connecticut while writing her first novel, “Wise Blood.” Fitzgerald’s papers contain both her personal research files and many of O’Connor’s letters and manuscripts, including 84 letters written to the Fitzgeralds between 1951 and 1964.

“Given her lifelong association with literary works, her commitment to the development of archives generally and her relationship with Flannery O’Connor, Emory is the perfect place for Sally Fitzgerald’s papers to be,” says O’Connor scholar Rosemary Magee, vice president and secretary of the University. “In addition, Sally had a recurring presence on our campus for almost two decades as a scholar, teacher and colleague.”

Fitzgerald was instrumental in initiating the 2007 donation to Emory of the complete collection of letters from O’Connor to her friend Betty Hester, Magee says.

The Fitzgerald papers rounds out Emory’s collection of O’Connor materials, Magee notes. “It broadens and deepens the connection, and connects the dots between O’Connor, Fitzgerald, Emory and the Hester letters.”

The new collection reinforces Emory as a destination for O’Connor scholars, “a hub of activity and energy and opportunity for scholars, students and teachers,” says Magee.

Magee is guest curator for an exhibit that opens at MARBL on Feb. 1. “Other People’s Mail” celebrates the acquisition of the Sally Fitzgerald Papers and highlights material related to three significant literary relationships O’Connor shared: with the Fitzgeralds, with author and critic Caroline Gordon, and with teacher Janet McKane.