Reading list in order...

David Alan Beck dabeck at iupui.edu
Thu Sep 26 21:54:53 EDT 2002


Marcus,
I think the connection is far from theoretical. While nothing said implies
a "happy-ever-after" ending, what is evident (at least from my reading) is
that ALL of Percy's fiction supports the Marcelian belief that one moves
towards authenticity through intersubjectivity. The Lancelot and Fr. John
relationship was given as my example. My copy is on campus, so I can't
offer direct quotes to support my assertion. But at the end, Percy makes
it clear that, for the first time, L "sees" Fr. John. Who knows what Lance
will do when he gets out? But the possibility exists that he will see that
true life comes from a relationship with other. In the Last Gentleman, a
form intersubjectivity occurs between "the engineer" and Sutter. Instead
of going off alone, Sutter refuses his isolated quest and stops his Edsel,
waiting for Barrett. Is everything "healed" by this enounter? We don't
know. But, like Lancelot, the ending gives the reader the hope that these
two will help each other become the person he was meant to be. In Love in
the Ruins, More finds intersubjectivity through Ellen (and discovers the
mystery and "sacredness" of each moment). Is he completely whole? No. He
still has a small part of him that longs to heal the soul through science:

"I still believe my lapsometer can save the world--if I get it right....
Even now I can diagnose and shall one day cure: cure the new plague, the
modern Black Death, the current hermaphroditisim of the spirit, namely:
More's syndrome..."

So indeed More's "healing" is only partial and the intersubjectivity he is
experiencing is tenuous at best (i.e. see Thanatos).

You wrote:
> in any way verified in the fiction?  Aren't matters energized on the        
> negative side, the specter of the nihilistic, and yet remain tentative
on   
> the positive side?  I think Percy was too honest to try to fake it.         
>                                                                             

I agree that the negative is a possibility, but what makes Percy so unique
is that, as you said, Percy is a realist, but his realism isn't
nihilistic. The possibility of new possibilities is there; but the
characters walk a razor's edge between nihilism and hope. The endings are
open for either possibility. But to see the sacred, the hope that is
"under our noses" isn't something one (or Percy) has to fake. That is
what, in my opinion, separates Percy from most contemporary writers: he is
realistic enough to see the nihilistic tendencies of our culture; but he
is wise enough to see that nihilism doesn't have to have the last word.

Well, from the sublime world of ideas to the "dirty" reality: my three
year-old daughter is standing here without a stitch on, waiting for her
abstracted father to give her a bath (right now she is singing a song
about Timmy the Turtle). Time to sign off. 

Any thoughts?
-DB

On Thu, 26 Sep 2002 marcus at loyno.edu wrote:

> This is an interesting and useful discussion and I don't want to rain on
> the parade.  But how often does Percy's fiction contain "someone finding
> himself"?  Aren't his protagonists more often caught up in stumbling from
> illusion to painful insight?  I think the K'aard connection and marcel's
> "intersubjectivity" are there as theoretical templates, but is this theory
> in any way verified in the fiction?  Aren't matters energized on the
> negative side, the specter of the nihilistic, and yet remain tentative on
> the positive side?  I think Percy was too honest to try to fake it.
> 
> My wet Isidorian comment.
> 
> Marcus
> 
> 
> >Bryon,
> >I think the Kierkegaard connection is a strong one, especially his ideas
> >of repetition and rotation (especially in MG); but, to me, what Percy
> >seems to draw on the most are K's three spheres of existence: the
> >aesthetic, ethical, and the religious). My argument was that he relied on
> >the aesthetic and the ethical of K., but he replaced, for the most part,
> >K's religious with Marcel's intersubjectivity.
> >
> >What I've been focusing on in my fiction class is that violence is seen as
> >a substitute for intersubjectivity (albeit a poor one). (For those list
> >veterans I apologize for the repetition.) I compare Lancelot with
> >Palahinuk's Fight Club. While I'm sick of teaching both books, I find that
> >my best response to Percy is through these similar but contrasting books.
> >FC, with its irony, irreverance, and quick, fast-paced scenes, along with
> >its nihilism, appeals to the MTV generation. While FC ends in a scary,
> >paranoid type of hopelessness, L. offers a light of hope to the reader.
> >Students seem to relate to both (though I'd love to teach MG again, a book
> >that most of them despised). Maybe I'll use Love in the Ruins next
> >semester.
> >
> >Enough ramblings. Feel free to agree, disagree, etc. We need to do some
> >collective CPR to get this list breathing again.
> >-David
> >
> >
> >On Wed, 25 Sep 2002, Bryon McLaughlin wrote:
> >
> >> David Beck,
> >> 
> >> Thank you for the response.  That makes a lot of sense.  I took a
> graduate course on Percy in seminary and had difficulty figuring out his
> ties to Kier. beyond a superficial level with regard to solutions to the
> dilemnas of existence.  Percy's appropriation of Marcel seem to me to be a
> better explanation of where Percy ended up.  Further, it just makes more
> psychological sense.  Autonomy and self-actualization is difficult to
> imagine, if not impossible, without "the other(s)."  Thanks for taking the
> time to respond.
> >> 
> >> Bryon McLaughlin
> >> 
> >> 
> >> 
> >> -----Original Message-----
> >> From: David Alan Beck [mailto:dabeck at iupui.edu]
> >> Sent: Tuesday, September 24, 2002 5:42 PM
> >> To: Percy-L: Literary and Philosophical Discussion
> >> Subject: [percy-l] Re: Reading list in order...
> >> 
> >> 
> >> 
> >> In that email, I was, once again, riding my hobby horse. My grad work
> was
> >> on Percy and how the synthesis of Kierkegaard and Marcel is needed to
> >> best understand Percy's fiction. Kierkegaard's "diagnosis" of modern
> >> society is correct, but his "remedy"--the lone "knight of faith"--isn't
> >> found in Percy. Percy uses Marcel's "intersubjectivity" as the remedy to
> >> the man's (woman's) modern condition. It is through "the other" that one
> >> finds himself. For example, Lancelot finds hope when he "sees" Fr. John.
> >> They "connect" eye-to-eye and achieve intersubjectivity. L. is just one
> >> example. In my opnion, none of Percy's fiction contains someone finding
> >> himself outside of interaction (communion--to use a more Christian term)
> >> with the other. (Of course, Buber and Levinas offer similar ideas, but
> >> Marcel's "version"--due probably to being Catholic and seeing the
> >> necessity of the sacred in and of the material world--is more
> >> incarnational and fits more closely with Percy's worldview (as portrayed
> >> in his fiction. I offer the qualifier because I never met him. Maybe
> >> Marcus or Nikki can chime in.).
> >> 
> >> David Beck
> >> 
> >> "One cannot help but awe when he contemplates
> >> the mysteries of eternity, of life, of the
> >> marvelous structure of reality. It is enough
> >> if one tries merely to comprehend a little of 
> >> this mystery every day."                         
> >>                       - Albert Einstein                 
> >> 		
> >> 
> >> 
> >> --
> >> An archive of all list discussion is available at
> <http://www.ibiblio.org/wpercy/hypermail>.  
> >> Visit the Walker Percy Project at <http://www.ibiblio.org/wpercy>.
> >> 
> >> 
> >> --
> >> An archive of all list discussion is available at
> <http://www.ibiblio.org/wpercy/hypermail>.
> >> Visit the Walker Percy Project at <http://www.ibiblio.org/wpercy>.
> >> 
> >> 
> >> 
> >
> >
> >David Beck
> >
> >"One cannot help but awe when he contemplates
> >the mysteries of eternity, of life, of the
> >marvelous structure of reality. It is enough
> >if one tries merely to comprehend a little of 
> >this mystery every day."                         
> >                      - Albert Einstein                 
> >		
> >
> >
> >--
> >An archive of all list discussion is available at
> <http://www.ibiblio.org/wpercy/hypermail>.  
> >Visit the Walker Percy Project at <http://www.ibiblio.org/wpercy>.
> >
> 
> 
> 


David Beck

"One cannot help but awe when he contemplates
the mysteries of eternity, of life, of the
marvelous structure of reality. It is enough
if one tries merely to comprehend a little of 
this mystery every day."                         
                      - Albert Einstein                 
		




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