The geography of a soul : Thomas Merton's ongoing spiritual autobiographical quest within the context of the literary genre of autobiography.
Thomas Merton throughout his autobiographical writings took some of the
dominant images and metaphors from the Christian tradition and, as many writers have
done previously, applied them to himself, reinterpreting them for the twentieth century.
This dissertation examines the metaphors Merton used to describe his spiritual quest
and places his writings within the category of autobiographer that James Olney defines
as a theoretical or auto-autobiographer thus providing a new way of interpreting
This dissertation examines Merton's major autobiographical works, some of
which are well known, others that have only been recently published, and his
unpublished nineteen-thirties' novels along with teenage writings uncovered in the
course of this study. Reference is also made to other published and unpublished work
By looking at these works and at specific chronological periods it is possible to
see developments in Merton's autobiographical writings, specifically in the metaphors
Merton used to express his developing sense of his self. The key to Merton's life and
writings is his ongoing autobiographical quest, a spiritual development expressed using
a variety of Christian and biblical metaphors including journey and place. This
dissertation traces and evaluates aspects of Merton's spiritual development in the light
of his autobiographical process.
Merton's metaphors developed throughout his writings, moving from a physical
journey where he saw himself as an exile, unstable and without a home, to a spiritual
journey in which nature, place and stability grew in importance, until he arrived at a
deep level of at-homeness achieved through his vow of stability which allowed him to
go out to the world, to others and, eventually, to undertake his final pilgrimage to the