Date of Award
Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)
Flannery O'Connor's interest in depth psychology, especially as it was presented by Carl Jung and Victor White, a Dominican priest and a "founding member of the C. G. Jung Institute," plays a greater role in her fiction than has been previously noted. O'Connor found parallels with Jung's theory of the unconscious and Catholic dogma, but ultimately found White's Catholicized presentation of the unconscious, which equated the unconscious psyche with the soul, more amenable to her faith.
This research first highlights the attention O'Connor gave to Jung's and White's theories of the unconscious as found in her public lectures, her personal letters and in her book reviews. In these, she expresses great doubts about the conscious, rational mind's ability to understand Reality and argues instead that it is ultimately Mysterious. Her letters also reveal her shared concern with both Jung and White that the Church has become too influenced by the modern temper and has abandoned its respect for Mystery and for the individual's personal religious instincts. This research then examines how her understanding of the unconscious is manifest in her first novel, Wise Blood, and four of her most popular short stories: "A Good Man Is Hard to Find," "Good Country People," "The Displaced Person," and her very last story "Judgment Day." In the novel and the stories we find her protagonists, whom she once labeled as "Christ-haunted," driven by an unconscious and seemingly irrational force that longs for and leads them toward their eternal Home.
This research concludes that O'Connor, as a result of the influence of both Jung and White, saw the unconscious as a creative force that influences the imagination to connect the physical world with the eternal world and to nurture a vision that is ultimately prophetic.