Walker Percy’s Nonfiction

Walker Percy might be best known for his fiction, especially The Moviegoer, opens a new window, winner of the 1962 National Book Award.  However, Walker Percy had his hand at nonfiction too, and was prolific in writing articles about southern society, psychology, and (most especially) semiotics. 

Semiotics is the study of signs.  In the case of language, semiotics refers to how the words we form signify different things.  While most, if not all, animals have some form of communication by which to interact with other animals, the use of words as signs per se may be unique to human beings.  This fascinated Walker Percy, and he considered the possibility of building a “theory of man” based on how we interact with one another and give meaning to the world around us using words.  If Chesterton called art the signature of man, Walker Percy essentially said the same of language.

The 1975 publication The Message in a Bottle, opens a new window collects many of Walker Percy’s essays on semiotics in a single volume.  Some of these are rather technical, but more accessible is Walker Percy's unusual 1983 title, Lost in the Cosmos, opens a new windowwhich blends together Percy's thoughts of semiotics with his existentialism inside a parody self-help book.  The anthology Signposts in a Strange Land, opens a new window collects together other articles and essays Walker Percy wrote over the years on a myriad of subjects.

Whether you are new to Walker Percy or have read all of his novels, take a look at his nonfiction below.  His titles are also available on Cloud Library, opens a new window and on Libby, opens a new window.

The Message in the Bottle

Lost in the Cosmos

Signposts in A Strange Land