A Study Of
Walker Percy's Thought In His Fiction,
"Lost In The Cosmos", And Other Writings
Jenkins, William Thomas
Advisor: Adviser: SIDNEY BURRIS
Source: DAI, 54, no. 07A, (1992): 2579
Walker Percy has consistently mounted in his
fiction and essays a defense of the mystery of human life. One
book that witnesses to the damage caused to individuals and to society whenever
life is reduced to being a problem is Lost in the Cosmos. This
relatively unexamined book offers some useful ways into the thought of Walker
Percy, especially in his novels. It is a compendium of themes, characters,
situations, and ideas that recur frequently in the fiction.
in the Cosmos is helpful in gaining insight into Percy's fiction and other
writings because in it one can find corrections of various intellectual and
artistic problems that tended to weaken Percy's previous fiction and essays.
The book also reveals a layperson's attempt to depart from the standard
versions of academic semiotics.
result of Lost in the Cosmos is the creation of Percy's "short
stories." These short, parabolic vignettes make use of the satire one may
find in the novels. From this concentrated look at satire the reader may turn
to the novels and find a powerful critique of modern American Christianity.
Following the comments on the devaluation of language in Lost in the Cosmos one
can see how the novels lampoon and lament the Church when it becomes dominated
by the surrounding culture.
culture of well-being is criticized in other ways. Percy, especially in his
novel The Thanatos Syndrome, parallels much in the thought of the French
Sociologist Jacques Ellul. Both specify how the ascendency of life as a problem
instead of a mystery has diminished the lives of countless people. Both also
share a tenuous hope that genuine religious commitment may deflect some of the
of the areas of human life that has suffered from the problems Percy and Ellul
write about is sexuality. One especially important example of essay writing and
fiction is Chapter Eighteen of Lost in the Cosmos. The concerns presented
there, based on Soren Kierkegaard's thoughts about the
"Musical-Erotic," are compared to the concerns of two other writers,
Denis de Rougemont and W. H. Auden.
final look is given to Percy's semiotics when applied to the fiction of others.
Here the work of Charles S. Peirce is examined in relation to Percy's
foundational assumptions about art.
Descriptor: LITERATURE, AMERICAN