Flannery O’Connor and her 1962 Lafayette lecture on “The Catholic Novelist in the Protestant South” are the topics of a symposium planned Friday-Saturday, Nov. 9-10, at the University of Louisiana at Lafayette and Our Lady of Wisdom Catholic Church and Student Center.
The campus was a stop on O’Connor’s lecture tour of Catholic student centers on university campuses in Louisiana and Texas, said Mary Ann Wilson, a professor of English at UL Lafayette.
A recording of the talk had been given to Wilson many years ago and was recovered last spring as she sorted through materials in her office, Wilson said.
The recording has been digitized and is now part of the university’s Center for Louisiana Studies collection, she said. The university received permission from O’Connor’s estate to share the recording at the symposium, Wilson said.
“The quality is very good,” she said. “We’ll be able to play some of it at the symposium. For people to hear that soft, southern drawl of O’Connor, it’s such a surprise because what she says is so powerful.”
The lecture was given two years before O’Connor died of lupus. The Georgia-born Catholic writer is well known for her gothic short stories that examine religious themes, such as “A Good Man Is Hard to Find” and the novel, Wise Blood.
The Flannery O’Connor Symposium: The Legacy of a Catholic Writer begins Friday with an evening reception at the university’s Alumni Center. On Saturday, the event features three O’Connor scholars: William Sessions, O’Connor’s authorized biographer; Christina Bieber Lake, associate professor of English at Wheaton College and Farrell O’Gorman, professor of English at Belmont Abbey College.
Topics will cover topics from her life and work to her Catholic vision and philosophies she shared with Louisiana writer Walker Percy.
A screening of The Displaced Person based on the O’Connor short story and a Mass are also part of the schedule.
Organizing a symposium to commemorate the event came at the suggestion of the pastor of Our Lady of Wisdom Church and Catholic Student Center, the Rev. Bryce Sibley, Wilson said.
“It’s an important piece of history for the university, Wisdom and Southern history, too,” Wilson said.
Wilson said organizers are seeking people who attended the 1962 talk at Wisdom to share what they remember about the event.
“We’d like to fill out the story: who was there, how many people were there,” Wilson said.
“Those people can give us some on-site information and we would love to get in contact with them.”
The event is presented by the university, Our Lady of Wisdom Catholic Church and Student Center, Friends of the Humanities and Deep South Magazine.
For more information on the symposium and a full schedule of activities, visit http://ourladyofwisdom.org/get-involved/symposium.