Walker Percy, Philosopher (10)

Forthcoming: Walker Percy, Philosopher.

Percy’s Poetics of Dwelling: The Dialogical Self and the Ethics of Reentry in The Last Gentleman and Lost in the Cosmos

Christopher Yates

Christopher Yates explores how two of Walker Percy’s seminal texts call us to practice self-examination in a way that seeks to overcome deceptive clarities in our lives. It is misguided, he argues, to read the texts as ventures in surrealist exploration or pietistic moralizing. Instead, The Last Gentleman and Lost in the Cosmos are one project that centers on the predicament of human finitude by way of three phenomena: the dialogical unfolding of subjectivity and truth, the ethical summons of alterity, and the conversion of human inauthenticity to reflective dwelling. Yates makes his case by reading Percy’s works through the lens of philosophers Mikhail Bakhtin, Emmanuel Levinas, and Martin Heidegger. This approach fills a gap in Percy scholarship by (i) explaining and securing the interrogative arc between “Gentleman” and “Cosmos”, and (ii) appreciating how Percy’s works enliven (more than simply illustrate) phenomenological accounts of human identity and knowledge.

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