A New Flannery O'Connor Has Arrived

By Gabriel Blanchard

We are pleased to welcome a new member to our Board of Academic Advisors,
Dr. Jessica Hooten Wilson.

Associate Professor of Creative Writing at John Brown University in Arkansas, with a PhD. from Baylor University, and the winner of 2019’s Hiett Prize in the Humanities, Dr. Jessica Hooten Wilson is our latest addition to the Board of Academic Advisors here at the CLT. She has special focuses on Catholic literature and the classic Russian novelists, and has published three books to date: Giving the Devil His Due: Flannery O’Connor and the Brothers Karamazov (2016), Walker Percy, Dostoevsky, and the Search for Influence (2017), and Reading Walker Percy’s Novels (2018).

In her address on receiving the Hiett Prize, Dr. Wilson says of figures like O’Connor, Percy, and Dostoevsky, “They’re like friends of mine, they’re the people I spend the most time with.” Her vision of the humanities is not one of abstract familiarity with authors’ dates and themes checked off a list, but one in which the great minds of our tradition are our allies in living. Ideas alone may mean little, as small talk means little; in literature these things are instantiated; a life and a future lived in accordance with a vision of the truth are presented to us there.

Dr. Wilson has a special familiarity with O’Connor. In 2018, she gave a lecture at Biola University titled from O’Connor’s writings, “‘With One Eye Squinted’: Flannery O’Connor and the Call to Suffering,” which explores the role that suffering plays in the Christian life. O’Connor described most people as thinking of religion as if it were an electric blanket—that they have no idea what it costs. Ranging from her short stories to her novels, and particularly her masterpiece The Violent Bear It Away, Wilson brings out O’Connor’s belief in the purifying operation of suffering, in its power to awaken faith, sand away the rust on the soul, and express mystical union between the many members of the body of Christ.

What we're doing is planting seeds that people can't see—they're underground—in the hope that they're going to bear fruit in the future.

Dr. Jessica Hooten Wilson

Photo depicts the library at Heidelberg University, Germany, courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.

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