THE KIERKEGAARDIAN PARADIGM OF THE RADICAL SELF IN FLANNERY O'CONNOR'S FICTION
By juxtaposing Flannery O'Connor's fiction with Soren Kierkegaard's legacy, one can explore an existential aesthetic that pertinently addresses the content and structure of O'Connor's stories. A basic Kierkegaardian premise, what could be called "the situation necessary for winning through to existence" of "finding the radical self," informs, with varying degrees of success, the fiction of Flannery O'Connor. Correspondingly, O'Connor's development as an artist can be traced by her growing mastery of "the extreme situation that best reveals what we are." The existential reading of her fiction presented in this paper pays particular attention to some of her rarely discussed early "thesis" stories, which provide a basic outline for finding the radical self; to several more mature works later in her career that add necessary detail to the basic outline; and to the masterworks of her last year, "Revelation" and "Parker's Back," which fully delineate the awful requirements for winning through to existence. Ultimately, for Flannery O'Connor, "fiction . . . is an incarnational art," and an existential reading of her fiction demonstrates the similarity between the incarnational and the particular individual's winning through to existence.