Cover image for Circuitous journeys : modern spiritual autobiography
Circuitous journeys : modern spiritual autobiography
Leigh, David J.
Personal Author:
Publication Information:
New York : Fordham University Press, [2000]

Physical Description:
xvi, 259 pages ; 24 cm.
Thomas Merton's The seven storey mountain -- Dorothy Day's The long loneliness -- The psychology of conversion in G.K. Chesteron and C.S. Lewis -- The dual plot of Gandhi's An autobiography -- Malcolm X and the Black Muslim search for the ultimate -- Black Elk speaks: a century later -- The remaking of an American Jew: Paul Cowan's An orphan in history -- I Rigoberta Menchú: the plotting of liberation -- Dan Wakefield's Returning -- Retraveling the century: Nelson Mandela's Long walk to freedom.

Format :


Call Number
Material Type
Home Location
Item Holds
BL71.5 .L45 2000 Adult Non-Fiction Central Closed Stacks

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Circuitous Journeys: Modern Spiritual Autobiography provides a close reading and analysis of ten major life stories by twentieth-century leaders and thinkers from a variety of religious and cultural traditions: Mohandas Gandhi, Black Elk, Thomas Merton, Dorothy Day, C. S. Lewis, Malcolm X, Paul Cowan, Rigoberta Menchu, Dan Wakefield, and Nelson Mandela.

The book uses approaches from literary criticism, developmental psychology (influenced by Erik Erikson, James Fowler, and Carol Gilligan), and spirituality (influenced by John S. Donne, Emile Griffin, Walter Conn, and Bernard Lonergan).

Each text is read in the light of the autobiographical tradition begun by St. Augustine's Confessions, but with a focus on distinctively modern and post-modern transformations of the self-writing genre. The twentieth-century context of religious alienation, social autonomy, identity crises and politics, and the search for social justice is examined in each text.

Author Notes

David J. Leigh is Professor of English at Seattle University.

Reviews 1

Choice Review

This series of essays comprises a close reading by Leigh (English, Seattle Univ.) of the autobiographies of Thomas Merton, Dorothy Day, C.S. Lewis, G.K. Chesterton, M. Ghandhi, Malcolm X, Black Elk, Paul Cowan, Rigoberta Menchu, Dan Wakefield, and Nelson Mandela, arguing that their religious significance is best discerned by uncovering their literary pattern and the implicit psychological dynamic of the individual autobiographers. A difficulty with the latter is a tendency to reduce the individual autobiographer's search for meaning to the resolution of psychological tensions, from the perspective of a reified Freudianism, e.g., "One can see in much of Merton's life story a search for the 'sense of purpose' he failed to achieve because of the timing of the death of his mother." Or, "Day's life can be seen as a circular journey to resolve the tensions between the father and mother within her...." Other criticisms: the individual chapters lack a common or similar format to aid readers in following the analysis; the excellent synthetic introduction and cursory conclusion would be better if switched; analysis often seems to be made to fit a Procrustean bed of theory, rather than theory flowing from analysis; and the intended audience is unclear. Suitable for graduate students, faculty, and researchers. ; University of Scranton

Table of Contents

Acknowledgmentsp. vii
Prefacep. ix
Introductionp. 1
1. Thomas Merton's The Seven Storey Mountainp. 32
2. Dorothy Day's The Long Lonelinessp. 56
3. The Psychology of Conversion in G. K. Chesteron and C. S. Lewisp. 81
4. The Dual Plot of Gandhi's An Autobiographyp. 102
5. Malcolm X and the Black Muslim Search for the Ultimatep. 137
6. Black Elk Speaks: A Century Laterp. 162
7. The Remaking of an American Jew: Paul Cowan's An Orphan in Historyp. 178
8. I, Rigoberta Menchu: The Plotting of Liberationp. 197
9. Dan Wakefield's Returningp. 215
10. Retraveling the Century: Nelson Mandela's Long Walk to Freedomp. 230
Conclusionp. 253
Indexp. 257