Thomas Merton Analysis

Other literary forms

(Poets and Poetry in America)
ph_0111207632-Merton.jpg Thomas Merton Published by Salem Press, Inc.

Better known for his nonfiction prose than his poetry, Thomas Merton (MEHR-tuhn) wrote an autobiography, The Seven Storey Mountain (1948); four journals, The Secular Journal (1959), The Sign of Jonas (1953), Conjectures of a Guilty Bystander (1966), and The Asian Journal of Thomas Merton (1973); and numerous books of theology and devotion, including Seasons of Celebration (1950), No Man Is an Island (1955), and Contemplative Prayer (1969). His other works include an early novel, published posthumously, My Argument with the Gestapo (1969); translations of church fathers, including Clement of Alexandria (1962) and The Wisdom of the Desert (1960); and several works about Eastern religion: The Way of Chuang Tzu (1965), Mystics and Zen Masters (1967), and Zen and the Birds of Appetite (1968). Merton published numerous articles on a similar range of topics in periodicals such as Commonweal, Catholic Worker, American Benedictine Review, Jubilee, and Sewanee Review. A selection of his photographs and calligraphy has been published by John Howard Griffin in A Hidden Wholeness (1970). Merton’s literary essays, introductions, and related materials are collected in The Literary Essays of Thomas Merton (1981).

Thomas Merton Achievements

(Poets and Poetry in America)

A teacher of English literature turned Cistercian monk, Thomas Merton bridges two worlds, bringing his considerable skill as a prose stylist to his religious works and turning Roman Catholic dogma into poetry. He has been acclaimed by many critics, with some justification, as the most important religious writer of the mid-twentieth century—a superlative that is, of course, impossible to establish. One thing, however, is certain: Neither as influential or skillful a poet as T. S. Eliot or W. H. Auden, nor as important a theologian as Karl Barth or Dietrich Bonhoeffer, Merton is impressive in both areas; among his contemporaries, only C. S. Lewis can rival him. Beyond this there is Merton’s importance as an antiparadigm for modern society. His life and writings reveal a mind unwilling to rest in any of the easy philosophies of twentieth century Western culture.

Thomas Merton Bibliography

(Poets and Poetry in America)

Atkinson, Morgan C., with Jonathan Montaldo, eds. Soul Searching: The Journey of Thomas Merton. Collegeville, Minn.: Liturgical Press, 2008. This biography is based on more than sixty hours of interviews conducted by Atkinson in the process of making a one-hour documentary for the Public Broadcasting Service. It brings together many different sources. The book was sold with a DVD of the documentary.

Burton, Patricia A. More than Silence: A Bibliography of Thomas Merton. Lanham, Md.: Scarecrow Press, 2009. A bibliography listing works by and about Merton.

Cooper, David A. Thomas Merton’s Art of Denial: The Evolution of a Radical Humanist. Athens: University of Georgia Press, 1989. This work is an excellent study of the congruence of contemplative thought and social criticism in the writings of Merton. Cooper stresses both the unity and the evolution in Merton’s reflections on his commitment to spiritual values and his role as a social critic.

Cunningham, Lawrence. Thomas Merton and the Monastic Vision. Grand Rapids, Mich.: Wm. B. Eerdmans, 1999. The details of Merton’s spiritual development and monastic life are explored. Cunningham follows the trajectory of the poet’s life after his entrance into the Abbey of Gethsemani in 1941.

Inchausti, Robert. Thomas Merton’s...

(The entire section is 470 words.)