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A Zen mechanic of the soul: Robert M. Pirsig's quest for enlightenment

Marrable, Joseph Thomas (1999) A Zen mechanic of the soul: Robert M. Pirsig's quest for enlightenment. Honours thesis, Murdoch University.

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This thesis attempts an interpretation of Robert M. Pirsig's Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance and the sequel Lila. It treats the texts as largely autobiographical, while acknowledging the complexities of classifying the books in such a way. It argues that the tests should be read as a body of work comprising of a spiritual odyssey, influenced heavily by the Zen Buddhism of Japan. The introduction claims a distinction between Pirsig's understanding of orthodox Zen Buddhism and the 'Beat Zen' of other American writers, and explores and engages various critical reviews and articles. Chapter one provides a synopsis of Pirsig's philosophy of 'Quality' and briefly places it in the contexts of European, American and Eastern Philosophy. This chapter also examines the author's account of his mental breakdown, treatment and subsequent recovery and discusses this in terms of Western psychoanalysis and Eastern mysticism. Chapter two submits a detail poetics of Pirsig's use of the motorcycle metaphor in the first book and the symbolism of it in the second, as a possible solution to a Zen koan. The final chapter takes a new tack and reads the two texts as an opus where Pirsig's concepts are illustrated to be compatible with both Transpersonal Psychology and a famous Japanese pictographic representation of the journey towards mystic enlightenment.

Item Type: Thesis (Honours)
Murdoch Affiliation(s): School of Humanities
Supervisor(s): Frodsham, John and Ruthrof, Horst
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