Cormac McCarthy’s cold pastoral: the overturning of a national allegory

O'Sullivan, James Stephen (2015) Cormac McCarthy’s cold pastoral: the overturning of a national allegory. Doctoral thesis (PhD), University of Sussex.

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This dissertation will argue that the novels of Cormac McCarthy represent a sustained attack on American literature’s abiding fixation with pastoral. It further argues that such a fixation is very much a national allegory, one that, paradoxically, cannot help but produce a sense of doubt lurking beneath the numerous assertions of individual and national confidence.

Cormac McCarthy very much engages with the antinomies of this national allegory. His use of pastoral allegory comes in the form of a broken allegory: a strategy that is very much in keeping with Walter Benjamin’s vision of allegorical fragmentation resulting from permanent historical crisis. This crisis, as McCarthy shows, reaches tipping-point in the modern era: the pastoral’s dream of ‘pure-utility’ is shown to be completely incompatible with the predominance of exchange value and commoditized social relations.

The study is in four parts. The first section divides the first four novels in order to explore how they shatter the South’s notion of uniqueness through a depiction of a desecrated pastoral. The second section considers the novel Blood Meridian on its own in order to demonstrate how the novel’s absurdist renunciation of pastoral and the western mythos helps set up the late novels themes of generic and cultural termination. The third looks at the Border Trilogy, and discusses how recourse to the more open wildernesses of the south-west curiously introduces a countervailing theme of disenchantment and pastoral attenuation. The fourth and final section groups together No Country for Old Men and The Road, in order to argue that these late novels elicit a final rejection of pastoral as it collides headlong with the imaginary of late-capitalism.

Item Type: Thesis (Doctoral)
Schools and Departments: School of Media, Arts and Humanities > American Studies
Subjects: P Language and Literature > PS American literature > PS0700 Individual authors > PS3550 1961-2000 > PS3563.C337 McCarthy, Cormac
Depositing User: Library Cataloguing
Date Deposited: 22 May 2015 12:02
Last Modified: 16 Mar 2022 15:49

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