Srigley, Susan 1967-

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Srigley, Susan 1967-


Born 1967. Education: McGill University, B.A.; McMaster University, M.A., Ph.D.


Office—Nipissing University, Department of Philosophy, Religions, and Cultures, 100 College Dr., Box 5002, North Bay, Ontario P1B 8L7, Canada; fax: 705-474-1947. E-mail—[email protected].


Writer, theologian, scholar, critic, and educator. Nipissing University, North Bay, Ontario, Canada, associate professor of religions and cultures and chair of the department of philosophy and religions and cultures.


Flannery O'Connor's Sacramental Art, University of Notre Dame Press (Notre Dame, IN), 2004.


Writer, scholar, and critic Susan Srigley is an associate professor of religions and cultures and chair of the department of philosophy and religions and cultures at Nipissing University, in North Bay, Ontario, Canada. She holds a B.A. from McGill University and M.A. and Ph.D. degrees from McMaster University. She teaches courses in topics such as the history of Christian thought; death and immortality; holy women, such as mystics and saints; and spiritual journeys.

Flannery O'Connor's Sacramental Art is Srigley's detailed analysis of the work of famed Southern writer O'Connor, whose stories and novels have brought her recognition as "one of the greatest American writers of the 20th century, perhaps second in stature only to fellow southerner William Faulkner," commented Charlotte Allen in the Wilson Quarterly. O'Connor, born in 1925, died relatively young at the age of thirty-nine from hereditary lupus. Her stellar reputation is based on a small but intensely popular and successful literary output that consists of two novels and thirty-two short stories. O'Connor's stories are often referred to as representative of the "southern grotesque," or "southern gothic" style, in which often unpleasant people with prominent physical or psychological deformities engage with their environment and with other people and frequently come out of the experience damaged further or, sometimes, dead. Nearly all of O'Connor's fiction is infused with her "signature qualities of extreme physical and emotional violence, mordant wit, and fascination with the ‘Christ-haunted’ (her words) consciousness of the Protestant fundamentalist South," Allen observed.

In her own life, O'Connor was a devout Roman Catholic who attended Mass at every opportunity and who uncritically accepted and defended every rule, prohibition, and teaching in Catholic theology. Despite the contention of some critics that religion was irrelevant to O'Connor's literary art, it can be observed in many of her stories that religion played an important role in her work, not so much as a source of strength and serenity for her characters but as a set of behaviors and concepts that inflicted seemingly capricious cruelty on them. "The characters in O'Connor's fiction typically flail in semicomic, semitragic misery as they strive to break free from their religious pasts and remake the world in their own images, but find themselves pinned like butterflies by a God who will not leave them alone," Allen remarked. Further, "Srigley takes issue with critics who radically separate O'Connor's theological inquiry from her fictional landscapes and characters. She demonstrates how the two are integrally connected in the religious artist's imagination," reported America reviewer George Kilcourse.

In her book, "Srigley mounts an able defense of Flannery O'Connor's orthodoxy against critics who have argued that her use of the ‘grotesque’ was more Manichean than Catholic—i.e., that she divided matter from spirit," considering each in a dualistic manner that distinctly separated the physical world from the spiritual world, noted Anne Barbeau Gardiner in a New Oxford Book Reviews assessment. "On the contrary, Srigley replies in Flannery O'Connor's Sacramental Art, the author used the grotesque to hold a mirror up to modern times," Gardiner continued.

Kilcourse remarked that Flannery O'Connor's Sacramental Art "breaks significant new ground" in O'Connor criticism and analysis. In the first chapter, Srigley assesses the influence that philosophers St. Thomas Aquinas and Jacques Maritain had on O'Connor and her work. In this analysis, "Srigley is generally good on how both theology and art reveal a moral vision but she is especially good on the sources impinging upon O'Connor's own moral aesthetic," commented Jason Peters on the Journal of Religion and Society Web site. In the second chapter, she provides an interpretation of the character Hazel Motes, protagonist of the novel Wise Blood. Motes is an unpleasant character, the "epitome of the secularist who, in his refusal to love God and neighbor, cannot grasp what it means to be human," observed Gardiner. An anti-Christian, Motes ultimately blinds himself with lye and dies a mean death in a ditch. Srigley argues that Motes's "redemption lies not in what he turns toward, but in what he turns from," noted Christianity and Literature reviewer Avis Hewitt.

In the chapter titled "The Violence of Love," Srigley looks carefully at O'Connor's other novel, The Violent Bear It Away. O'Connor interprets the violence of love in terms of the language and concepts of the ascetics, seeing it as an inner spiritual struggle against a variety of negative emotions and vices. "Srigley is very good here on the ascetic notion of love as a kind of violence—a holy, inner violence" in which a person accepts personal responsibility and suppresses their personal pride, Peters observed.

With her in-depth analysis of O'Connor's thoughts and works, Srigley has "made a palpable contribution and given us promise of more good work to come," Peters stated. "Finding a reader of O'Connor who combines theological acumen with literary sensibility is rare, but Susan Srigley delivers on both counts," commented Gary R. Hall, writing in the Anglican Theological Review. Srigley has "contributed formidable efforts to our understanding of the works of one whom Thomas Merton said we must not compare to any other American author but only, given her power to investigate our push against ultimate reality, to Sophocles," commented Hewitt. Kilcourse remarked favorably on Srigley's "provocative and intelligent interpretations of Flannery O'Connor."



America, May 9, 2005, George Kilcourse, "Ethics as Fiction," review of Flannery O'Connor's Sacramental Art, p. 18.

Anglican Theological Review, spring, 2007, Gary R. Hall, review of Flannery O'Connor's Sacramental Art, p. 331.

Christianity and Literature, fall, 2005, Avis Hewitt, review of Flannery O'Connor's Sacramental Art, p. 119.

Church History, June, 2006, Doris Betts, review of Flannery O'Connor's Sacramental Art, p. 461.

New Oxford Book Reviews, December, 2006, Anne Barbeau Gardiner, "From the Grotesque to Love," review of Flannery O'Connor's Sacramental Art.

Wilson Quarterly, winter, 2005, Charlotte Allen, "Grace and the Grotesque," review of Flannery O'Connor's Sacramental Art, p. 114.


Journal of Religion and Society, (May 28, 2008), Jason Peters, review of Flannery O'Connor's Sacramental Art.

Mars Hill Audio, (May 28, 2008), author profile.

Nipissing University Web site, (May 28, 2008), author profile.

University of Notre Dame Press Web site, (May 28, 2008), author profile.