Tuesday, July 21, 2015

O'Connor Meets Chesterton

My Presentation on Flannery O'Connor
at the Springfield Chesterton Society

Earlier this month, I was privileged to be a guest speaker at the G.K. Chesterton Society of Springfield, MA, presenting on one of my all-time favorite authors, Flannery O'Connor. If you're wondering what a "Chesterton Society" is, in this case it's a men's discussion group dedicated to the late British writer G.K. Chesterton, which meets monthly to discuss topics in the spirit of one of the finest wits and most brilliant minds of the 20th century. There are many such groups around the country, although this local chapter happens to be founded by my father and is the oldest, continuing Chesterton Society in Massachusetts.

Although it's a men's group, once in awhile the society will hold a Lady's Night, which is led by a woman upon invitation and is open to all female acquaintances. I was honored and nervous to be given the opportunity to speak at this month's meeting about O'Connor, a Southern Gothic writer whose unsettling fiction dared to look boldly into the ugly parts of human nature. Though Chesterton died ten years shy of O'Connor's first publication, and though the two hailed from nations on opposing sides of the Atlantic, in much of their writings they shared common ground: fierce wit, philosophical prowess, a vivid love for Catholicism, and a strong distaste for bad art. Therefore, I couldn't think of a better setting to present on O'Connors life, philosophy, and ingenious works.

You can view my presentation in the video above.* Before you watch, a few disclaimers:

1) The nature of these meetings, particularly since they're run by my father and include several long-time friends, is informal. Therefore, chips will be eaten, cigars will be smoked, and overenthusiastic laughter at inside jokes will ensue.

2) I suffer from an unfortunate condition known as Perpetual Child's Face and Voice Syndrome. This condition becomes all the more manifest when I appear on camera, along with my nervous addiction to phrases like "um" and "y'know." I apologize for painful viewing.

3) You may be confused at moments in the video when it looks like I'm speaking without opening my mouth. Don't be. That's my twin sister's voice coming from off-camera.

4) I think most people will be fine with this given the subject matter of the talk, but just in case: an obscenity is spoken briefly to name the title of a short story by O'Connor, "The Artificial Nigger." Please note that this word is used strictly within a literary context, and is not intended to be derogatory.

Enjoy and share away, fellow lit geeks! Grace and peace to you.

*Also available on the Springfield Chesterton Society's gallery page and YouTube channel.

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