Study Guide

Flannery O'Connor Iowa

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O'Connor thrived at Iowa, befriending many of the other students, teachers, and poultry. Some of them, like Andrew Lytle, later the editor of the Sewanee Review, would become important advocates for her career. Her first published story, "The Geranium," appeared in Accent magazine in 1946. It was the title piece for the short story collection she submitted as her thesis. In 1947, O'Connor received a Master of Fine Arts in Creative Writing from the University of Iowa, and upon graduation, she was awarded the Rinehart-Iowa Fiction Award for an early version of what later became her first novel.

Upon our graduation, we were awarded the prestigious You Spent Way Too Much Money At Taco Bell Award. 

How do you like them apples, O'Connor?

After graduation, O'Connor applied to Yaddo, the prestigious artists' colony in Saratoga Springs, New York. She was accepted and moved to the colony in 1948. "She was a plain sort of young, unmarried girl, a little bit sickly," recalled the literary critic and novelist Elizabeth Hardwick, who was a resident at Yaddo at the same time as O'Connor. "She had a small-town Southern accent . . . She whined. She was amusing. She was so gifted, immensely gifted." 

That's nice and all, but maybe don't include the "plain, sickly, and whiny" part next time you give a compliment, Elizabeth. 

O'Connor was hard at work on her first novel, but in February of 1949, a New York Times article accused Agnes Smedley, a guest at Yaddo, of being a Communist spy. When they discovered that the program's director was also under investigation, O'Connor and the other artists in residence agreed that the director should step down. As a result of the controversy, O'Connor chose to leave Yaddo. She moved into a garage apartment attached to the Ridgefield, Connecticut home of her friends Robert and Sally Fitzgerald.

O'Connor never planned to return to Georgia. Unfortunately, in late 1950, she was diagnosed with the same form of lupus that had killed her father. At the time, the only treatment was heavy dosages of steroid drugs, which often made her feel even worse than the lupus did. In 1951, O'Connor moved to Andalusia, her mother's farm in Milledgeville. It was where she spent the rest of her life. She later expressed gratitude that she'd been forced to come back to Andalusia, as she did her best writing there.

No offense to your garage, Robert and Sally. We're sure it was lovely. 

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