Flannery and St. Teresa of Avila

3 teresa of avila Seville cathedral
Teresa of Avila, writing. Painting from the Seville Cathedral

“The writer operates at a peculiar crossroads where time and place and eternity somehow meet,” Flannery O’Connor said [in her talk, “The Regional Writer”]. “His problem is to find that location.”

For St. Teresa of Avila, time and place and eternity meet in a series of architectural images: “Let us consider our soul as a castle,” wrote Teresa in The Interior Castle, “…in which there are many rooms, just as in Heaven there are many mansions.”

Catholic novelist Caroline Gordon relied on architectural metaphors to understand the art of writing and hone her craft—and to share these lessons with a young O’Connor. “The house of fiction has not one window but a million,” Gordon told O’Connor, citing Henry James. “[…]The window is the temperament, the capacity to perceive, the artistic form the author gives his stuff.”

—Christine Flanagan, “From Contemplation to Craft: The Interior Castles of St. Teresa of Avila, Caroline Gordon, and Flannery O’Connor.” Talk delivered at Andalusia in Andalucía: An International Flannery O’Connor Conference, Seville, Spain (June 2017)

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