Episode 14: Walker Percy on Being Lost in the Cosmos

In episode 14 of Sacred and Profane Love, “Walker Percy on Being Lost in the Cosmos,” I speak with associate professor of Literature, Jessica Hooten Wilson, about Walker Percy’s dystopian, science fiction novel, Love in the Ruins.  We discuss the darkly comic adventures of Dr. Tom More as he tries to figure out how to live and love in the ruins of a society that seems eerily familiar to our own.  We also discuss Percy’s satirical take on the self-help genre, Lost in the Cosmos.  So bring out the Early Times this weekend, settle down on the porch, and enjoy a conversation about one of our greatest Southern writers.

Jessica Hooten Wilson is associate professor of literature at John Brown University.  She is the author of three books: Giving the Devil his Due: Flannery O’Connor and the Brothers Karamazov, Walker Percy, Fyodor Dostoevsky, and the Search for Influence, and A Guide to Walker Percy’s Novels. Currently, she is preparing Flannery O’Connor’s unfinished novel,Why Do the Heathen Rage? for publication.


This podcast is generously supported by the Institute for Human Ecology at the Catholic University of America. 

Music credits, “Help me Somebody,” by Brian Eno and David Byrne, licensed under CC BY-NC-SA 2.5.

Living the Truth

Last week I was honored to give two lectures on Anscombe at the University of Pennsylvania–one for the Collegium Institute, which is embedded below, and one for he philosophy department, which hosted its first Anscombe archive conference.  You can read about the Collegium here, and how they acquired Anscome’s archive here.  If you are in the Philadephia area, you should definitely make a point of attending some of their public events.

I spent about three hours in the Anscombe archive last Thursday.  For me, it was an incredible experience that I am still processing, not only because of how exciting some of the unpublished material is (an entire manuscript on truth!), but also because it was a unique window into Anscombe’s private life.  I read a long philosophical exchange (on postcards!) between Anscombe and Kenny as he was losing his faith and she was trying to bring him back.  I read a letter from Philippa Foot to Anscombe explaining why she was an atheist.  I read some of her “hate mail” after her opposition to Truman became international news (yes, it had some undeniable misogynist overtones). I read her marginalia on drafts of NNL papers (yes, it is funny and sometimes unkind).  Finally, I read a letter from a Japanese victim of US war crimes that brought me to tears (he was writing from his hospital bed, describing what happened to him and his loved ones).  As someone who has long admired Elizabeth Anscombe, sorting through all of this was an incredible experience, and I’m currently drafting a proposal to make several return trips.


For some thoughts about Anscombe’s relevance to all of us today, see the lecture below.