A Political Companion to Walker Percy
Publication Year: 2013
In 1962, Walker Percy (1916--1990) made a dramatic entrance onto the American literary scene when he won the National Book Award for fiction with his first novel, The Moviegoer. A physician, philosopher, and devout Catholic, Percy dedicated his life to understanding the mixed and somewhat contradictory foundations of American life as a situation faced by the wandering and won-dering human soul. His controversial works combined existential questioning, scientific investigation, the insight of the southern stoic, and authentic religious faith to produce a singular view of humanity's place in the cosmos that ranks among the best American political thinking.
An authoritative guide to the political thought of this celebrated yet complex American author, A Political Companion to Walker Percy includes seminal essays by Ralph C. Wood, Richard Reinsch II, and James V. Schall, S.J., as well as new analyses of Percy's view of Thomistic realism and his reaction to the American pursuit of happiness. Editors Peter Augustine Lawler and Brian A. Smith have assembled scholars of diverse perspectives who provide a necessary lens for interpreting Percy's works. This comprehensive introduction to Percy's "American Thomism" is an indispensable resource for students of American literature, culture, and politics.
Published by: The University Press of Kentucky
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Those who undertake a study of American political thought must attend to the great theorists, philosophers, and essayists. Such a study is incomplete, however, if it neglects American literature, one of the greatest repositories America’s literature is distinctive because it is, above all, intended for a democratic citizenry. In contrast to eras when an author would aim to in-...
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Why do two political scientists say that an American Catholic novelist can teach us what nobody else can about our nation’s political life? In fact, we think it’s important that Percy was an American, a Catholic, and a novelist, not to mention a physician and a philosophical essayist. Percy explains that the novel itself is a Christian medium. Who’s read a really good Darwinian ...
1. Walker Percy
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William Buckley once wittily remarked that all future presidents should be made to take a double oath of office. They should swear not only to uphold the Constitution of the United States of America but also promise to read, mark, learn, and inwardly digest Walker Percy’s novel of 1971, Love in the Ruins. “It’s all there in that one book,” Buckley declared, “what’s happening ...
2. The Moviegoer's Cartesian Theater
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Binx Bolling is the moviegoing protagonist of The Moviegoer (1961), Walker Percy’s first published novel. In an interview, Percy once referred to Binx as a “victim” of Descartes, to whom Percy attributed “many of the troubles of the modern world.”1 Did Percy intend some connection between Binx’s moviegoing and his unfortunate Cartesian heritage? In ...
3. Walker Percy's Critique of the Pursuit of Happiness in THe Moviegoer, Lost in the Cosmos: The Last Self-Help Book, and The Thanatos Syndrome
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Americans have exercised magnificently the right to pursue happiness. Americans enjoy, on the whole, comfortable lives and unprecedented political and personal freedom, but, as happiness studies show, not much happier lives. While happiness studies indicate that happiness levels re-main flat, happiness researchers are optimistic that their research on the ...
4. On Dealing with Man
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I’ve always held that art and even novels were just as valid as science, just as cognitive. . . . Science will bring you to a certain point and then no further; it can say nothing about what a man is or what he must do. And then the Scientists are more interested in teaching apes to talk than in finding out why Why is it that the look of another person looking at you is different from ev-...
5. Walker Percy's "Theory of Man" and the Elimination of Virtue
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It is no overstatement to say that throughout his entire authorship, the cri-tique of our current cultural anthropology, together with the formulation of a new “theory of man,” was Walker Percy’s central concern. In many of his earliest essays, most of which predate his first and highly acclaimed novel, The Moviegoer, Percy outlines what he sees as the currently fractured state ...
6. Confessing the Horros of Radical Individualism in Lancelot
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Lancelot is Percy’s richest and most challenging novel. It is challenging be-cause its narrator is so beguiling and intelligent, so clearly right about many of the shortcomings of his society, and yet at the same time deadly wrong. To a degree the same might be said of Percy’s two other first-person nar-rators, Binx Bolling and Tom More. But by comparison with either, Lance ...
7. Walker Percy's Alternative to Scientism in The Thanatos Syndrome
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Walker Percy’s The Thanatos Syndrome is often read, and rightly so, as a critique of scientism. Scientism is the belief that science alone can make truth statements about the world. For Percy, such a perspective always dehumanizes. Because man is viewed as matter, all personal and social ills are ascribed to chemical imbalances in the brain and call for phar-...
8. Love and Marriage among the Ruins
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Walker Percy intimated in several addresses and essays his belief that the South was strangely capable of teaching the United States enduring truths of man’s nature and being.1 Separated from the larger country since the 1830s by political rebellion, racial oppression, and economic torpidity, the South of the late twentieth century, Percy argued, was now liberated and ...
9. Walker Percy's Last Man
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Walker Percy set out to write novels that examined both obvious and latent maladies in our public life. Laden with allusions to philosophy and address-ing the gamut of modernity’s political and social quandaries, Percy’s novels present images of our existence as wayfarers in a profoundly disturbed world. They also stand as near-apocalyptic warnings of where we as a people might ...
10. The Second Coming of Walker Percy
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This essay looks at three strands of Walker Percy’s thoughts through the decade or so before his 1956 Commonweal article, “Stoicism and the South.”1 These three strands of thought are semiotics, Catholicism, and Stoicism. Percy’s work on semiotics, his reading of Kierkegaard, and his conversion to Catholicism led him to make the change from ...
11. Walker Percy, Alexis de Tocqueville, and the Stoic and Christian Foundations of American Thomism
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According to John Courtney Murray in We Hold These Truths, the task of American Catholics is to supply a theory adequate to the greatness of our Founders’ practical accomplishment.1 The dominant theory of our nation is Lockeanism, the theory of a middle-class country. We Americans, so the thinking goes, are basically beings with “interests” and so beings with ...
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Page Count: 272
Publication Year: 2013
Series Title: Political Companions to Great American Authors