Date of Award


Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)



First Advisor

James Olney


While many critics have explored some connections between Walker Percy's work and the philosophies of Soren Kierkegaard and Martin Heidegger, none has examined that link in terms of autobiography and autobiographical theory. This study looks at both Percy's fiction and nonfiction in light of the category of repetition and its relation to autobiography. Following largely the work of William Spanos, the first chapter establishes a reading of autobiography as repetition--understood as inter esse, "being between" and concerned in time. It then discloses a link between such a view of autobiography and Percy's diagnostic use of the novel. The remainder of the study examines Percy's works in light of repetition and the three component parts of the word "autobiography"--autos, bios, and graphein. Chapter Two investigates Percy's semiotics of the self, especially with regard to the self's "unformulability" and "dislocation" as those themes are displayed in Lost in the Cosmos, The Moviegoer, and The Last Gentleman. Chapter Three explores Percy's criticism of a gnostic culture as it is framed in "The Loss of the Creature" and "The Message in the Bottle," and it explores references to the Nazi Holocaust (taken as the most extreme expression of gnosticism in this century) throughout his novels, but especially in The Thanatos Syndrome. Chapter Four examines the reflexive nature of Percy's writing--the interpenetration of repetition as a theme and repetition as narrative technique--with reference to the "blue-dollar hawk" story as it is told in "Metaphor as Mistake" and The Second Coming. Chapter Five recapitulates much of the dissertation but with regard to Percy the man. In a large part of his life and work, Percy seems to have absorbed and been absorbed with the category of repetition.