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Flannery O'Connor and Isabel Allende: A meeting of the Americas

Ann Marie Wellington, University of Nebraska - Lincoln


Are the theoretical stances of Modernism and Postmodernism diametrically opposed? According to postmodernist theorist Jean-Francois Lyotard, they are not. But to say so he must reject the modernist Jürgen Habermas's definition of art. According to Lyotard, “[w]hat Habermas requires from the arts and the experiences they provide is, in short, to bridge the gap between cognitive, ethical, and political discourse, thus opening the way to a unity of experience.” Consequently, bridging that gap artificially enforces a unity that postmodern artists see as unenforceable. That gap is what postmodern art attempts to present when it presents the unpresentable. Within this dissertation I argue that the stylistic devices, personal theories about writing and fictional characterizations of Flannery O'Connor and Isabel Allende reflect that the gap itself illuminates for us that while some human experiences are not understandable they are nevertheless very real. ^ O'Connor's and Allende's works parallel Lyotard's definition of the aim of fiction: to present the unpresentable not by bridging a gap, but by focusing on the gap as unpresentable. These artists believe that the aim of fiction should be mystery, not truth. This aim, however, is not to unify (as Habermas would contend), but rather to reveal the gap, briefly uncovered in a mysterious moment of being. This moment is not a comfortable one for the characters or for the readers. ^ Treating the short stories of O'Connor and Allende together in this dissertation offers a unified view of the literature of the Americas that suggests a necessary change in the traditional literary canon. The relationship between the works of these two women demonstrates that we are all bound together by Lyotard's gap, whose presence lies before all humans, regardless of ethnicity or geography. ^

Subject Area

Literature, Comparative|Literature, Latin American|Literature, American

Recommended Citation

Wellington, Ann Marie, "Flannery O'Connor and Isabel Allende: A meeting of the Americas" (2003). ETD collection for University of Nebraska - Lincoln. AAI3092606.