Friday, August 07, 2020
Loyola Maryland has removed Flannery O'Connor's name from one of its dorms. Angela Alaimo O’Donnell objects. As it happens I am in the midst of a re-read of "Wise Blood" at the moment, probably because I read the New Yorker article Ms O'Donnell references. (I know I read it- I just can't recall if that was what motivated me to revisit the novel. It could just be that I was up in the attic and saw it.) I have a few points in rebutal.
First of all, "Jesuit values". Ahaahahahahahaha! Okay, now that that's out of my system, as the product of 12 years of Catholic education I can tell you that Flannery O'Connor's fiction always seemed much more Southern than Catholic to me. In fact, conspicuous by its omission in Ms. O'Donnell's article is anything about what Catholic values Ms. O'Connor's fiction embodies. One of the problems I have always had with her fiction is that it does absolutely reflect the racism of her time and place, in ways that, e.g. Faulkner's work does not.
Finally, a word
about "cancel culture": As far as I can tell Flannery O'Connor had no
connection to Loyola Maryland. There are 17 dorms on campus. One is
named for Dorothy Day, a choice that makes sense on the campus of a
Catholic college. Another is named for St Thomas Aquinas, there's one
called Seaton, presumably after the saint, likewise the tower called
Newman. I can discern no obvious Catholic connection among the remaining
dorm names. Here's the thing: were I a young student of color at Loyola
College in the 21st Century I think I would feel uncomfortable walking
by a building named for the author of "The Artificial Nigger', and if I
were that hypothetical student and had read more deeply into the works
of Ms. O'Connor- as I had as a college freshman back when I was one-- I
think I'd probably be even more disturbed. So why not take her name
down? Nobody's saying not to read her- although apparently not many
people at Loyola do. She is good to read, but I don't think she should
be memorialized on the side of a building. The Catholic tradition that Ms. O'Donnell's article seems to me to best reflect is it's reactionary conservatism.