Date of Award

Summer 8-11-2011

Degree Type

Dissertation

Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)

Department

English

First Advisor

Dr. Thomas McHaney

Second Advisor

Dr. Kenneth Laine Ketner

Third Advisor

Dr. Pearl McHaney

Abstract

Walker Percy thought a paradigm for the modern age, human beings, and life does not exist, and no paradigm vying for supremacy (religion, scientism, new age physics and philosophies) succeeds. He sought to create a “radical anthropology” to describe human beings and life. His anthropology has existential roots and culminates in the philosophy and semeiotic of American pragmatist Charles Sanders Peirce. Unlike any other creature, humans have symbolic capacity, first manifested in a child’s naming and demonstrated in human being’s unique language ability, the ability to communicate through symbol and not just sign. Percy conveyed his anthropology in his last three novels through a number symbolism corresponding to the theme of each novel based on Peirce’s Cenopythagoreanism, viewing the world through the paradigm of number. In Lancelot, Percy uses the symbol of the inverted three to illustrate Lancelot’s inverted search for evil. In The Second Coming, he uses diamonds and squares and fours to illustrate community and authentic communication in the novel. In The Thanatos Syndrome, he uses twos and sixes to represent the search for dyadic solutions to triadic problems. Percy sees a synechistic and synchronistic interconnected “fabric of life” to the universe, enabled by human symbolic capacity, or Peirce’s concept of relations.

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