Publication Date


Advisor(s) - Committee Chair

Robert Johnston

Degree Program

Department of Philosophy & Religion

Degree Type

Master of Arts


Robert Coover is one of a group of young American novelists who, using philosophical and theological frameworks, have used literature as a vehicle by which to exp7ore metaphysical areas that have been largely ignored in recent decades. An abiding interest in Coover's fiction, as befits a former philosophy professor (Bard College), is the whole question of order vs. chaos, or, perhaps more appropriately, an Apollonian vs. a Dionysian world view. In approaching this subject Coover poses important questions to his reader -- questions dealing with our ways of experiencing and thinking, questions examining our secular and religious institutions, questions spotlighting the omnipresence in our lives of myth and ritual, questions addressing our attitudes toward history, and questions concerned with the ways we use language. In this manner Coover seeks to say something about man as he is rather than about man as he likes to think he is.

Coover believes the world to be ultimately random while man is inwardly driven toward orderliness. By means of myth, ritual, history and language man is able to evoke order out of chaos, according to Coover, and thereby sacralize his world and make one's life meaningful. Such orderliness is strictly man-made, Coover insists, and thus he sees man as a sort of "games player" who, by means of his creative and imaginative powers, is able to make rules, set boundaries, and even give a pep talk or two. Man as "games player" runs a risk, however, of becoming so wrapped up in his "game" that he is no longer able to say what the "real" world is all about. The height of human awareness, for Coover, is to recognize oneself as a "games player," to know what kind of game one is playing and why the game needs to be played.

In examining Coover's fiction aesthetically and addressing the philosophical and theological issues he raises we will come to see that Coover's vision of man as "games player" is an inadequate one.


Arts and Humanities | Philosophy | Religion