AbstractsPhilosophy & Theology

The Humanity Strain: Diagnosing the Self in Walker Percy's Fiction

by Hillary McDonald

Institution: Wake Forest University
Year: 2014
Keywords: Kierkegaard
Record ID: 2027967
Full text PDF: http://hdl.handle.net/10339/39259


While literary scholars and theologians alike have noted the spiritual epiphanies crucial to the different protagonists' development in Walker Percy's novels, they have focused more on Percy's Christian agenda than the medical healing that occurs in his fiction. Conversely, when scholars have observed the influence of Percy's medical background in his fiction, they often emphasize Percy's use of medical terminology and his portrayals of physicians and illness while largely neglecting their philosophical implications. Percy coined the phrase "diagnostic fiction" to describe his work, and states that its purpose is to diagnose philosophical problems of the self, thereby assisting the ailing person to articulate these otherwise abstract maladies in concrete, clinical terms. Percy's medical training provides a uniquely clinical perspective of philosophical problems, and he is able to make philosophy and medicine coexist harmoniously in his fiction. The purpose of this paper is to demonstrate this coexistence by analyzing Percy's protagonists in terms of Kierkegaard's three stages of existence – aesthetic, ethical, and religious – and placing these stages within a medical context.