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Literature, Religion, and Postsecular Studies

Walker Percy, Fyodor Dostoevsky, and the Search for Influence

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Although Walker Percy named many influences on his work and critics have zeroed in on Kierkegaard in particular, no one has considered his intentional 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.

200 pages, Hardcover

Published October 11, 2017

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Jessica Hooten Wilson

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49 reviews
September 13, 2021
I have only read one of Walker Percy’s novels, and Dr. Wilson’s book,”Walker Percy, Fyodor Dostoevsky, and the Search for Influence,” makes me crave the rest.

Dr. Wilson walks through each of Percy’s novels and analyzes the way he uses Dostoevsky’s ideas and story structures. The book criticizes the modern literary trend that art must come from the absolute originality of the artist and instead argues that the use of literary influences that shape modern novels should be celebrated and encouraged.

Her book is filled with rich Christian insight and stirs up a calling for current novelists to echo and develop the ideas and stories of those who came before them.
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