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The American Isherwood$
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James J. Berg and Chris Freeman

Print publication date: 2014

Print ISBN-13: 9780816683611

Published to Minnesota Scholarship Online: August 2015

DOI: 10.5749/minnesota/9780816683611.001.0001

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Isherwood and the Psycho-geography of Home

Isherwood and the Psycho-geography of Home

(p.107) 8 Isherwood and the Psycho-geography of Home
The American Isherwood

Victor Marsh

University of Minnesota Press

This chapter examines how selfhood drove Christopher Isherwood’s writing and his personal journey into Vedanta philosophy and practice with his guru, Swami Prabhavananda. Whether his writings were nominally fictional or autobiographical, Isherwood was constantly probing, reflecting, and reinventing versions of selfhood. Even the ostensibly fictional books would be recounted by a namesake narrator. Critics unsympathetic to his quest sometimes take this self-referentialism as a form of egotism, and a superficial reading of the autobiographical approach often conflates this technique with narcissism. The role of the guru within the bhakti (devotional) expression of yoga is commonly misunderstood outside of the Vedanta traditions. This chapter also considers Isherwood’s failure to connect to the sacred through Anglicanism, his respect and admiration for the Swami, and how meditation came to represent an unexpectedly complete solution to Isherwood’s struggle to locate an integrative subjectivity.

Keywords:   selfhood, Christopher Isherwood, Vedanta, Swami Prabhavananda, egotism, narcissism, yoga, Anglicanism, meditation

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