Celebration of light : the fiction of Neil M. Gunn
This thesis re-examines and re-assesses the fiction of Neil M. Gunn in the light of Gunn's demonstrable interest in, and latterly study of, such Eastern philosophies as Zen Buddhism and Taoism. These philosophies with their belief in the possibility of Enlightenment to the reality or "Suchness" of the world through the practice of meditation, offer a philosophical model which can be used to illustrate Gunn's vision of the world as a realm of wonder and Delight. Gunn's idea that man can and does penetrate to this "other landscape" of Delight in brief flashes of intuitive insight closely parallels the Zen concept of satori or "sudden illumination". Yet it was only late in his life, towards the end of his writing career,that Gunn recognised the parallels between his own fundamental philosophical stance and these long-established Eastern ways of thought. And while this concept of life as Delight is often ignored or disparaged by critics, it is around this very concept that Gunn's fiction coheres. All his other interests - historical, political, sociological and psychological - find their common centre here. The method followed has been to discuss a selection of Gunn's novels in chronological order so as to show the scope and development of this aspect of his fiction. Simultaneously, each chapter is concerned with different aspects of the process of meditation which is central to both Zen and Taoism, so that the reader is made aware of Gunn's interest in Eastern philosophy as a living reality and not simply as an intellectual concept. The conclusion is that when each of the varied elements of his fiction is in harmony with this central intuition, then Gunn's vision of Scotland, and of life, is enriched with a philosophical subtlety unique in Scottish fiction.