Henry Miller and Religion
A new scholarly study of Henry Miller’s writing endeavors to fit Miller snugly within a long tradition of religious authors. Henry Miller and Religion by Thomas Nesbit closely examines Miller’s major fictional works in the light of a broad range of religious tradition. The author was granted special access to Miller’s unpublished letters and notes for this project, including Miller’s personal copies of key religious texts. The unique insight he draws from this material, along with a clear command of religious and literary history combine to present a compelling view of Miller that we haven’t seen before.
Miller was profoundly inspired by the confessional writing of Dante, William Blake, and Abelard, as well as The Bible and a great variety of esoteric texts and eastern religious traditions. Nesbit captures the religious allusions that escape the casual reader. His close analysis of Tropic of Cancer, Tropic of Capricorn and The Rosy Crucifixion, reveals how the whole structure and purpose of Miller’s writing is informed by the quest for spiritual liberation.
Nesbit began studying Miller in 1999 and completed a dissertation on the subject of Miller’s religious connections at Boston University. Research from his dissertation formed the basis of Henry Miller and Religion, which he began writing in earnest in 2004.
The connections between Miller’s earthy writing and its spiritual foundations is a deep and fascinating subject. No other work on Miller has yet plumbed these depths with such thoroughness and insight.
From the author:
Henry Miller often claimed that he was a religious writer, yet no scholar has convincingly identified his religiosity, showed its sources, and offered in-depth interpretations of his works as deliberately constructed religious texts … until now.
Henry Miller and Religion argues that Miller devoted his entire life to articulating a religion of self-liberation in his autobiographical books. As the guiding principle behind his vision, Miller believed that sex, religion, and art are streams from one holy river of creativity. To understand how he imagines this trinity, this book examines his life and work within the context of fringe religious movements that were linked with the avant-garde in New York City and Paris at the first of the 20th century.
After reconstructing Miller’s religious milieu, this study offers close readings of his first-person texts as confessions and testaments. Chapters are allotted to his most important works, including Tropic of Cancer, Tropic of Capricorn, and The Rosy Crucifixion trilogy. By reassessing these books, we gain a more accurate understanding of Modernism, the origins of Postmodern styles, recent American religiosity, and the creative interplays of religion and literature in the 20th century.