People | Believers

Freeing Myself from Grad School, I Rediscover Flannery O’Connor and the Medieval Mystics

I try to use my master’s thesis as a way to find myself in women’s writing—the mystics, Flannery—but, ultimately, I fail.


Revelations of Divine Love Book of Margery Kempe

Back in my small room in Brooklyn, I often think of Julian, who lived as an anchoress in Norwich. Anchoresses lived, confined, in a small room connected to the side of a church. She would have had two windows—one connected to the church through which she could receive food and confess her sins, and another facing the outside, so she could provide spiritual guidance to her community. My small room has a window that faced an alley.

Religious figurines that sat by Flannery’s childhood bed. Photo courtesy of the author.

I write about Flannery O’Connor, that modern mystic, whose characters loved God so much they became mutilated, disfigured, and deformed. Flannery O’Connor writes, “in some medieval paintings . . . the martyr’s limbs are being sawed off and his expression says he is being deprived of nothing essential.” Flannery, who walks around on her farm among the peacocks, metal braces supporting her body, writes, “I do not know you God because I am in the way. Please help me to push myself aside.”

Spanish moss in Savannah, GA. Photo courtesy of the author.


A Mirror of Simple Souls.

Flannery’s childhood home in Savannah, GA. Photo courtesy of the author.
Flannery’s mother’s farm in Milledgeville, GA. Photo courtesy of the author.

“I see the dusty hairpins on the mantel.” Photo courtesy of the author.”

“The Virgin Mary figurines on her mother’s vanity.” Photo courtesy of the author.