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The Christ-Haunted South

The Christ-Haunted South

Pruit Memorial Symposium
Thursday, October 22 - Saturday, October 24, 1998

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Program Description

This symposium explores a topic of both scholarly and practical interest, for its analysis of how religion has shaped Southern culture is not just an ivory-tower matter for artists and intellectuals; it is a topic that has relevance to the world in which we conduct our lives each day. It is our hope that the symposium this year will not only raise pertinent questions about the role of religion in Southern life, but actually will help to clarify the long-lasting and ongoing interplay of Christianity and culture in our region.

Our program, as in years past, again provides an important opportunity for shared inquiry. An outstanding array of academics, theologians, and writers will focus their attention on central issues relating to faith and Southern culture. How has the Southern religious heritage been a vital force informing our culture, including especially the writing of literary artists such as William Faulkner, Flannery O'Connor and Walker Percy? How has Christianity shaped the relationships between the classes, regions, and races of the South? In what ways has organized religion fallen short of its high calling, and how might these shortfalls yet be remedied?


Will Campbell

Will Campbell's book, Brother to a Dragonfly, published in 1977, was described by New York Times as one of that year's best books. It was a finalist for the National Book Award and received the Lillian Smith Prize.

Campbell, a native of Mississippi but a longtime Tennessee resident, attended Louisiana College and Tulane University. He is a graduate of Wake Forest University, which awarded him an honorary Doctor of Humanities degree, and Yale University Divinity School. The University of the South awarded him a Doctor of Literature degree.

His other novels include The Glad River, winner of the Friends of American Writers Award, The Stem of Jesse, Forty Acres and a Goat, The Convention, Providence, and his most recent publication, And Also With You - Duncan Gray and the American Dilemma.

He was the subject of historian Thomas Connelly's Will Campbell and the Soul of the South and the first recipient of the Alex Haley Award for Distinguished Tennessee Writers.

Dennis Covington

The New York Times Book Review calls Dennis Covington's Salvation on Sand Mountain, "a book of revelation - brilliant, dire and full of grace."

In describing Salvation on Sand Mountain, Covington's account of his journey into and back out of the world of holiness snake handlers, The Washington Post writes: "Covington journeyed into a place where most of us would fear to tread, and acting on his instinct, faith and heart, he wrote a book that is unmatched in a man's attempt to understand who he is."

Covington teaches creative writing at the University of Alabama at Birmingham. He is also the author of the award-winning novel Lizard as well as Lasso the Moon.

Riggins Earl

Professor of ethics and theology at the Interdenominational Theological Center in Atlanta, Dr. Earl has traveled extensively in his educational studies, to Africa, Europe, Canada, and the Bahamian Islands. He received his bachelor's at the American Baptist College, a master of divinity and a doctorate from Vanderbilt, and has done post-doctoral work at Harvard and Boston Universities.

Author of Dark Symbols, Obscure Signs: God, Self and Community in the Slave Mind, Dr. Earl also served as editor of To You Who Teach in the Black Church and has several manuscripts being published. He is director of the Institute for Ethical Leadership and Values in Atlanta, guest editor of Black Church Focus, was associate editor of Christian Educational Informer and former editor of Journal Interdenominational Theological Center.

Wayne Flynt

A lifelong Southerner, Dr. Flynt has taught at Southern institutions most of his life. He received his bachelor's from Howard College, his master's and doctorate from Florida State University. After teaching at Samford University for eight years, Dr. Flynt taught history from 1977 to 1985 at Auburn University in Alabama. He has been a Distinguished University Professor at Auburn since 1990.

Dr. Flynt's research interests include Southern culture and religion, Alabama politics, education reform and poverty

He has written several books, including Poor but Proud: Alabama's Poor Whites; Mine, Mill and Microchip: A Chronicle of Alabama Enterprise; Dixie's Forgotten People: The South's Poor Whites; Cracker Messiah: Governor Sidney J. Catts of Florida; and Duncan Upshaw Fletcher: Dixie's Reluctant Progressive.

Greg Garrett

Winner of the 1993's Pirate's Alley William Faulkner Prize for Fiction for his novella Minuet, Dr. Garrett received his doctorate in English from Oklahoma State University. He is author of 30 short stories in newspapers, magazines, literary journals and anthologies in the United States, Canada and New Zealand.

Recognized by the national literary journal The Double Dealer Redux as a "superbly gifted writer," Dr. Garrett is associate professor of English at Baylor University, where he has been named Outstanding Faculty Member by the Baylor Student Congress and Outstanding Professor by the University's administration.

Sybil Pittman Estess

Born in Mississippi, Dr. Estess received her undergraduate degree from Baylor University and her doctorate from Syracuse University. She is the author of a book of poetry, Seeing the Desert Green, and has co-edited a book of criticism, Elizabeth Bishop and Her Art. Dr. Estess has published poems in journals such as Shenandoah, The Paris Review, The New Republic, Western Humanities Review and Southern Poetry Review. Her literary criticism has appeared in Modern Poetry Studies, The Southern Review, The Denver Quarterly, The Iowa Review, and elsewhere. Currently, she is completing two manuscripts of her poetry and a textbook on creative writing.

Dr. Estess has taught at the University of Houston, the University of St. Thomas, Rice University and Houston Community College. She now teaches writing courses at Blinn College in Brenham, Texas.

Noel Polk

This notable Faulkner critic is a native son of Picayune, Mississippi. He describes his book, Outside the Southern Myth, as an apologia for the huge segment of Southern males and communities that exist outside the stereotype of "beer-drinking, mean-spirited, pickup-driving redneck racist" or "julep-sipping, plantation-owning, kind-hearted, benevolent racist."

Dr. Polk, a Professor of English at the University of Southern Mississippi, also has written Children of the Dark House: Test and Context in Faulkner and is editor of the Reading Faulkner Series and of 11 Faulkner texts for Random House, The Library of America and Vintage International.

He received his bachelor's and master's from Mississippi College and his doctorate from the University of South Carolina.

Jay Tolson

An award-winning author, Jay Tolson has been editor of The Wilson Quarterly since 1989. His book, Pilgrim in the Ruins: A Life of Walker Percy, won the Southern Book Award for Non-fiction and the Hugh Holman Award for the best work of criticism and scholarship in 1992-1993.

Tolson has written extensively for newspapers and periodicals, including The Washington Post, The New Republic, and The Wall Street Journal. He received his bachelor's in history from Princeton University and a master's in literature from American University.

Kenny Williams

An English professor at Duke University, Dr. Williams has had several articles published in national journals. Her work also has been published in The Oxford Companion to African-American Literature, and she currently has three works under contract.

Dr. Williams received the Mid-America Award for distinguished contributions to the study of Midwestern literature in 1986. Dr. Williams received her bachelor's from Benedict College, and master's from DePaul University and University of Pennsylvania, where she also received her doctorate in American Civilization.

Ralph Wood

A native of East Texas, Dr. Wood graduated with bachelor's and master's degrees in English from East Texas State University. He wrote his master's thesis on "The Scandal of Redemption in the Novels of Flannery O'Connor.: He took a second master's degree and a doctorate at the Divinity School of the University of Chicago. His graduate studies centered on the relation of Christian theology to the chief literary texts of the West.

Dr. Wood received the Reid-Doyle Prize for excellence among the junior faculty and the Jon Reinhardt Award for distinguished classroom work at Wake Forest University. He is the first interdisciplinary University Professor at Baylor, teaching in religion, English and George Truett Theological Seminary.

Dr. Wood is editor-at-large of Christian Century, a member of the editorial board for the Flannery O'Connor Bulletin and book review editor for Perspectives in Religious Studies.


Thursday, October 22

1:00 to 1:15 p.m.

Welcome and Introduction

  • Michael Beaty
  • Greg Garrett
  • Robert B. Sloan Jr.

1:15 to 1:45 p.m.


"Voices from Southern Playwrights," Baylor's Theater Department

2:00 to 3:20 p.m.

Concurrent Scholarly Sessions

Flannery O'Connor

  • Deborah Lee Ames, Oklahoma State University: The Devil's Experiment Station: Holocaust Imagery in Flannery O'Connor's Short Fiction
  • Ken Paul Novak: In Search of the Devil: Flannery O'Connor's Victim of Thomas Merton's Moral Theology of the Devil

Race and History

  • Fred Bailey, Abilene Christian University: The Work Among the Colored Brethren: Religion, Racism, and Social Order in the New South, 1890-1920
  • Mel Hawkins, Carson-Newman College: For the Solving of the Race Question: The Southern Sociological Congress and Race Relations in the American South

John Grisham-John Dufresne

  • Ralph R. Joly, Asbury College: Crap Shoot Justice: Liminality in the New South
  • Carter S. Hillyer: Searching for God in the Christ-Haunted South of Louisiana Power and Light


  • Thomas Haddox, Vanderbilt University: The Blessed Virgin and a Mick on the Make: Catholicism in Gone With the Wind
  • Joanne Halleran McMullen: The Non-Catholic Linguistics of Flannery O'Connor in A Good Man Is Hard to Find and A Stroke of Good Fortune

William Gilmore Simms-Robert Penn Warren

  • A. J. Conyers, George W. Truett Theological Seminary, Baylor University: William Gilmore Simms's Incarnational Theology and the Character of Southern Religion
  • Michael M. Jordan, Hillsdale College: Robert Penn Warren Haunted by Original Sin

3:35 p.m. to 4:55 p.m.

Concurrent Scholarly Sessions

Walker Percy

  • Peter Lecouras, Coastal Carolina University: Social Practices and Semiotics in Percy's Lancelot
  • Farrell O'Gorman, University of North Carolina: Walker Percy, the Catholic Church, and Southern Race Relations

Eudora Welty-Lee Smith

  • Polly Williams, Chapman University: monologue in the voice of Eudora Welty
  • Linda Byrd, Sam Houston State University: Reconciliation with the Feminine Divine in Lee Smith's Saving Grace

Flannery O'Connor

  • Linda Hollandsworth, Coastal Carolina University: A Dramatic Reading of "A Good Man Is Hard to Find"
  • Panel Discussion

Flannery O'Connor

  • Lawanda Smith, LSU at Alexandria: Religion, Justice, and Southern Culture: A Parabolic Analysis of Flannery O'Connor's A Good Man Is Hard to Find and Revelation
  • Vicky Campo, Arizona State University: The Terrible Speed of Mercy: God as Rapist in The Violent Bear it Away

7:30 to 9:00 p.m.

Keynote Presentation

Wayne Flynt, Auburn University: Will There Always be a South? Tradition, Modernity and Memory

Friday, October 23

9:00 a.m. to 10:00 a.m.

Plenary Session

Ralph Wood, Baylor University: Flannery O'Connor's Preachers

10:10 a.m. to 10:50 a.m.

Author Reading

  • Sybil Pittman Estess
  • Fredrick Barton

11:00 a.m. to 12:00 p.m.

Plenary Session

Jay Tolson, The Wilson Quarterly: A Semi-Southern Gnostic Reflects Upon the Orthodoxy of a Southern Catholic

1:30 p.m. to 2:50 p.m.

Concurrent Sessions

Southern Religion

  • Mel Piehl, Valparaiso University: How Still We See Thee Lie: James Agee and Religion
  • Sandra S. Hughes, University of Georgia: Black Madonna on the Courthouse Wall: The Possibility of Redemption in Jean Toomer's Cane


  • Ruth Alden Doan, Hollins College: Seeing Self in Community: White Religious Narrative in the Old South
  • Kimberly R. Kellison, Baylor University: Legislated Behavior: Evangelicals and Social Reform in the Postbellum South

Southern Movies

  • Ron Gilmer II, Florida State University: Not Funny 'Ha Ha,' Funny Queer: Biblical Authority and Cultural Prejudice in Billy Bob Thorton's Sling Blade
  • Richard White, Benedictine College: Sin, Grace, and Redemption in Sling Blade and The Apostle

William Faulkner

  • John Skyes, Wingate University: Faulkner's South-Haunting Christ Figure
  • Dale M. Jenkins, Bluefield College: Addie Bundren of As I Lay Dying: A Candidate for Salvation?

Jack Butler-Rebecca Wells

  • Johnny Wink, Ouachita Baptist University: The Miscegenated Voice: Point of View in Jujitsu for Christ
  • Mary Ann Wilson, The University of Southwestern Louisiana: Living on the Edge in Rebecca Wells' Little Altars Everywhere

3:00 p.m. to 4:00 p.m.

Plenary Session

Noel Polk, University of Southern Mississippi: Defigured and Refigured: Christ in Faulkner

4:15 p.m. to 5:15 p.m.

Author Reading

Greg Garrett, Baylor University

7:30 p.m. to 9:00 p.m.

Author Reading

Will Campbell: Ramblings of a Bootleg Preacher

Saturday, October 24

9:00 a.m. to 10:20 a.m.

Concurrent Sessions

Flannery O'Connor

  • Matthew Fike, American University in Bulgaria: Grace and Place: The Timothy Allusion in Flannery O'Connor's A Good Man is Hard to Find
  • Tom Greer & Andrew Granade, Ouachita Baptist University: The Sacramental Process: Flannery O'Connor's Two Novels and the Protestant Male Characters

Will Campbell Workshop

Greg Garrett Master Class in Fiction

Southern Movies

  • Jerry Wood: Religion, Belief, and Character: Christianity in Tender Mercies
  • Don Richter, Emory University: Places in the Heart: Reflections on the Christian Family

Walker Percy

  • Charles James Cook, The Episcopal Theological Seminary of the Southwest: Walker Percy's Diacritical Message
  • Russel B. Sisson, Union College: The Trials and Tribulations of Searching for God in the South: Walker Percy's Treatment of Religion in The Last Gentlemen

10:35 a.m. to 11:35 a.m.

Plenary Session

Kenny Williams, Duke University: Religion and African American Literature in the South

1:15 p.m. to 2:35 p.m.

Concurrent Sessions

Flannery O'Connor

  • Barry Henck, State University of New York at New Paltz: Tracing Flannery O'Connor's Lines of Spiritual Motion
  • Mac McGinty: Redemption and the Grotesque: The Reintegration of the Unlovable in Flannery O'Connor's Writing

Fiction Readings

  • Karen McElmurray, Lynchburg College: Laying on Hands from Strange Birds in the Tree of Heaven
  • Steve Weathers, Abilene Christian University: Following Leuda

Jim Grimsley-Ernest Gaines

  • Ed Madden, University of South Carolina: Dream Boy: Jim Grimsley's Gothic Gospel
  • Frederick L. Downing, Louisiana College: Ernest Gaines and Parabolic Fiction: A Quest for Cultural Change in the South

Sybil Pittman Estess Poetry Workshop

Southern Movies

  • John Wood, Baylor University: The Myth of Redemptive Violence in Selected Films Set in the South
  • Frederick Barton, University of New Orleans: Crime, Punishment and Hopes for Redemption

2:45 p.m. to 4:05 p.m.

Concurrent Sessions

Religion & Identity

  • Christy Marks, University of Central Florida: That Empty Pew: Faith and Identity in Anne Tyler's Saint Maybe
  • Rochelle Mabry, East Carolina University: My Will Be Done: Reconstructing Personal Faith in The Annunciation

Katherine Anne Porter-Lee Smith

  • Michelle Wallace, Emory University: Silent Gods or Ambiguous Antecedents?: Naming and Identity in Katherine Anne Porter's He
  • Nancy Gidden, Texas State Technical College: The Sacred Everyday


  • Gerald Smith, Paine College: Post-Oak Circuit: Methodist Frontier Humor
  • James M. SoRelle, Baylor University: Cimbee's Ramblings: A Case Study of Humor as a Source of Protest in Houston's African American Community During the Jim Crow Era

Walker Percy

  • Elizabeth Parr, University of St. Thomas: The World of the Walking Wounded All Over Again: Flannery O'Connor and Walker Percy
  • Joseph Stamey, McMurray University: Angelism, Mechanism, or Incarnation? Language Learning in Two Southern Novelists


  • Stan Denman, Baylor University: Theatre and Conflict in the Christ-Haunted South
  • Gary Richards, University of New Orleans: Tennessee Williams, Margaret Mitchell, and the Production of Southern Jewishness in Alfred Uhry's The Last Night of Ballyhoo

4:20 p.m. to 5:20 p.m.

Plenary Session

Riggins Earl, Interdenominational Theological Center: Artistic Images of Jesus in Black Culture: From Mortician Hand Fans to Contemporary Black Art Galleries

7:00 p.m. to 8:00 p.m.

Panel: Reflections on the Christ-Haunted South

  • Dennis Covington
  • Riggins Earl
  • Wayne Flynt
  • Frederick Barton
  • Noel Polk
  • Jay Tolson
  • Kenny Williams
  • Ralph Wood

8:00 p.m. to 9:00 p.m.

Plenary Session

Dennis Covington, University of Alabama: The Good Part