Walker Percy, Fydor Dostoevsky, and the Search for Influence

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Jessica Hooten Wilson
Literature, Religion, & Postsecular Studies
  • Columbus, OH: 
    Ohio State University Press
    , October
     2017.
     200 pages.
     $89.95.
     Hardcover.
    ISBN
    9780814213490.
     For other formats: Link to Publisher's Website.

Description

Although Walker Percy named many influences on his work and critics have zeroed in on Kierkegaard in particular, no one has considered his intentional influence: the nineteenth-century Russian novelist Fyodor Dostoevsky. In a study that revives and complicates notions of adaptation and influence, Jessica Hooten Wilson details the long career of Walker Percy. Walker Percy, Fyodor Dostoevsky, and the Search for Influence demonstrates—through close reading of both writers’ works, examination of archival materials, and biographical criticism—not only how pervasive and inescapable Dostoevsky’s influence was but also how necessary it was to the distinctive strengths of Percy’s fiction.

From Dostoevsky, Percy learned how to captivate his non-Christian readership with fiction saturated by a Christian vision of reality. Not only was his method of imitation in line with this Christian faith but also the aesthetic mode and very content of his narratives centered on his knowledge of Christ. The influence of Dostoevsky on Percy, then, becomes significant as a modern case study for showing the illusion of artistic autonomy and long-held, Romantic assumptions about artistic originality. Ultimately, Wilson suggests, only by studying the good that came before can one translate it in a new voice for the here and now.

About the Author(s)/Editor(s)/Translator(s): 

Jessica Hooten Wilson is Associate Professor of Literature at John Brown University and author of Giving the Devil His Due: Demonic Authority in the Fiction of Flannery O’Connor and Fyodor Dostoevsky (2017).

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