The Procession of the Time-Bearing Gods: Soul-History in Autobiography

Date of Award


Degree Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)




James B. Wiggins


Autobiographical discourse, Religious meaning, Phenomenology of self, Image-amplification, Augustine's Confessions

Subject Categories



The thesis this dissertation works from, and through, is as follows. Autobiographical discourse, when it moves through questions of religious meaning, is soul-history. And, in so far as autobiography is visioned as soul-history, it is the discovery of religious meaning both for the writer and for the reader who meet, co-creatively, in the world of the text.

Taking as its starting point the intimation that interpretation must be congruent to the genre it addresses, the method developed herein is a melding of the hermeneutical techniques of phenomenological and depth-psychological text interpretation. The focus throughout is on the role of the image in autobiographical discourse, and in discourse about autobiography. Because images are the language of the soul, the logos of psyche, questions of religious meaning (largely as they appear in "secular" autobiography) are considered in so far as they can be seen as arising from movements of the soul through life-time. This entails revisioning certain conceptual oppositions which the autobiographical genre tends to call into play (among them, I/other, inside/outside, fiction/history, now/then, real/imagined, ego/psyche). Because the imaginal perspective is a seeing-through otherness, the image/concept opposition is itself called into question, as a literalism which stands in the way of depth-level autobiographical interpretation.

Since written discourse necessarily involves the co-creative interplay of the possible worlds of author and reader, it becomes apparent that as autobiography is a phenomenology of self, so its interpretation is at base autobiographical. The key to this way of seeing it lies in what imaginal psychology calls the process of image-amplification. Augustine's Confessions provide an archetypal model of this process of "dreaming the myth onward." In addition to an extended meditation on the Confessions, considering the soul-histories of several other autobiographers (W. B. Yeats, Jean-Jacques Rousseau, Henry Adams, Sigmund Freud, C. G. Jung, Maxine Hong Kingston, Malcolm X, C. S. Lewis, Loren Eiseley) suggests that we are all fellow pilgrims, along the imaginal way we commonly refer to as life-time.


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