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Why Do the Heathen Rage? Flannery O'Connor's Unfinished Novel

Dallas Institute of Humanities and Culture

Presented by Dr. Jessica Hooten Wilson

During the final years of her life, Flannery O’Connor began writing a third novel entitled Why Do the Heathen Rage? Because of the deleterious effects of lupus, from which she suffered for fourteen years, O’Connor would never complete her story. Full of wit and O’Connor’s characteristic depth of insight, the start of the story will delight readers. Even the briefest of encounters with her protagonists, Walter Tilman and Oona Gibbs, is worthwhile, in spite of the manuscript’s unfinished nature.

To publish an unfinished novel of one of the most beloved American writers of the twentieth century invites a host of questions: Should the “novel” be published at all? If so, in what form? In a coherent reordering and editing of the material? Or as a finished work with a ghostwriter filling in the blanks? Who is the audience for the new publication: the populace at large, the literati, the professors? Should the book be published for an academic audience with annotations, footnotes, and a scholarly introduction or as a piece of accessible fiction? What would the author herself have wanted? These are the questions Dr. Hooten Wilson faced in preparing O’Connor’s Why Do the Heathen Rage? for publication. Join her for a presentation and discussion of this momentous event in American letters.

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