Emory Report
November 2, 2009
Volume 62, Number 9

‘Habit’ Nov. 5 events
PANEL: 30th Anniversary of ‘The Habit of Being.’

4 p.m. Woodruff Library, Jones Room.

LUMINARIES LECTURE: “Flannery O’Connor’s
Last Masterpiece.”
Jonathan Yardley, presenting. 5 p.m. Woodruff Library, Jones Room.

READING: Letters of Flannery O’Connor to Robert and Sally Fitzgerald. Brenda Bynum, presenting. 7:30 p.m. Cannon Chapel.

Staffer writes
about O’Connor’s spiritual side
The latest book from Lorraine V. Murray, public services assistant in the Pitts Theology Library, “Abbess of Andalusia: Flannery O’Connor’s Spiritual Journey” offers an in-depth look at O’Connor not only as a writer and an icon, but as a theologian and student of prayer.


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November 2, 2009
Events celebrate Flannery O’Connor links

By maureen Mcgavin

The story of acclaimed author Flannery O’Connor’s life is illuminated through her correspondence with a wide range of thinkers, poets, writers and theologians. Her distinctive Southern voice will come to life with a program of special events on Thursday, Nov. 5.

To recognize the 30th anniversary of the publication of O’Connor’s letters in Sally Fitzgerald’s book “The Habit of Being,” Emory Libraries is hosting “Habits of Being: Flannery O’Connor and Sally Fitzgerald.”

The celebration will include a panel discussion, a lecture by Washington Post book critic Jonathan Yardley and a dramatic reading from O’Connor’s letters by Atlanta actress Brenda Bynum.

O’Connor, a native Georgian, lived with Sally and Robert Fitzgerald and their children on a farm in rural Connecticut in 1949 and 1950. The three had many discussions about their shared Catholic faith, and O’Connor remained close friends with the couple until her death in 1964.

Fitzgerald compiled and edited “The Habit of Being: Letters of Flannery O’Connor,” published in 1979.

“It was a groundbreaking book in terms of understanding the nature of Flannery O’Connor’s work and the insights into her life that the letters provided — her personality, humor, relationships and beliefs,” says author and O’Connor scholar Rosemary Magee, vice president and secretary of the University.

The plural “Habits” title of the celebration is a twist on the singular title of the book “in that Sally Fitzgerald and Flannery O’Connor inspired habits of thinking and writing — and therefore of being — in all of us,” says Magee.

Fitzgerald was a visiting research scholar at Emory in the 1980s and 1990s. She played an instrumental part in Emory Libraries’ acquisition in 1987 of O’Connor’s letters to Atlanta friend Betty Hester, which were kept closed according to Hester’s instructions until 2007 (Hester was the anonymous A in some of the letters in “The Habit of Being”). Emory Libraries acquired Fitzgerald’s papers in the winter of 2008; both collections are at the Manuscript, Archives, and Rare Book Library.

“As Emory holds both O’Connor’s letters to Betty Hester and the Sally Fitzgerald papers, it’s very appropriate that Emory host a celebration of the 30th anniversary of this seminal work,” says Naomi Nelson, interim director of MARBL.

The upcoming celebration involves interconnected events, says Magee — the 30th anniversary of “The Habit of Being,” Fitzgerald’s longtime relationship with Emory, her role in its acquisition of the Hester letters, and Emory’s recent acquisition of Fitzgerald’s papers.

Magee will serve as moderator for the panel discussion, featuring William Sessions, a retired Georgia State professor and a personal friend of O’Connor’s; Bruce Gentry, a faculty member at Georgia College & State University and editor of the Flannery O’Connor Review; Elizabeth Chase, Woodruff Library Fellow; and Lorraine Murray of Pitts Theology Library and author of “Abbess of Andalusia: Flannery O’Connor’s Spiritual Journey.

Washington Post book critic and author Yardley, who reviewed “The Habit of Being” when it was first released in 1979 and again in 2005, will give a lecture titled “Flannery O’Connor’s Last Masterpiece.”

The day will conclude with a theatrical reading of O’Connor’s letters to the Fitzgeralds, performed by Atlanta actress and Emory professor emeritus of theater studies Bynum.

Bynum is well known for capturing O’Connor’s humor, perceptions and accent in previous readings of the author’s letters.

Additional sponsors of the celebration include Creativity: Art and Innovation, the Hightower Fund of Emory College and the Provost’s Luminaries Series.