A Political Companion to Walker Percy
Published by: The University Press of Kentucky
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.
Series Foreword vii
Introduction: Walker Percy, American Political Life, and Indigenous American Thomism by Peter Augustine Lawler and Brian A. Smith
1. Walker Percy: A Brief Biography by Ralph C. Wood
2. The Moviegoer's Cartesian Theater: Moviegoing as Walker Percy's Metaphor for the Cartesian Mind by Woods Nash
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 by Elizabeth Amato
4. On Dealing with Man by James V. Schall, S.J.
5. Walker Percy's "Theory of Man" and the Elimination of Virtue by Nathan P. Carson
6. Confessing the Horrors of Radical Individualism in Lancelot: Percy, Dostoevsky, Poe by Farrell O'Gorman
7. Walker Percy's Alternative to Scientism in The Thanatos Syndrome by Micah Mattix
8. Love and Marriage among the Ruins by Richard M. Reinsch II
9. Walker Percy's Last Men: Love in the Ruins as a Fable of American Decline by Brian A. Smith
10. The Second Coming of Walker Percy: From Segregationist to Integrationist by Brendan P. Purdy and Janice Daurio
11. Walker Percy, Alexis de Tocqueville, and the Stoic and Christian Foundations of American Thomism by Peter Augustine Lawler
Selected Bibliography 267
List of Contributors
"Walker Percy is an important writer who is not easily pigeonholed, and he offers an interesting and unique perspective on being human and living in America in his fiction and essays." -- Steven D. Ealy, Senior Fellow at Liberty Fund, Inc.
"A splendid set of essays inspired by the audacious thought that American public discourse can be enriched by reflection on the novels of Walker Percy, chronicler of the hopes and fears, the disorders and longings of one of the strangest creatures ever to find itself lost in the cosmos, the ordinary American citizen. If the essays do not quite make the case that Percy contains the key to reforming the political order, they succeed in demonstrating that Percy is an indispensable aid in showing us how to endure political disorder with wisdom and wit."" -- Thomas Hibbs, Baylor University
"Peter Lawler and Brian Smith have assembled a first-rate collection of essays that wonderfully illumine Walker Percy's art as well as the political and philosophical thought that informs it. In these pages, one confronts an intrepid critic of the illusions of modernity, from the abstractions of the Cartesian mind to the rampant scientism that today threatens the integrity of the soul. But one also witnesses on every page Percy's humanity, his confidence in the ability of language to give us access to truth, and his refusal to succumb to anything resembling nihilism and despair. The volume is particularly impressive in drawing out the multiple ways that Percy's thought can help save American liberty from self-destruction." -- Daniel J. Mahoney, Augustine Chair in Distinguished Scholarship, Assumption College