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Title: Cormac McCarthy and the cities of God, man and the plain
Author: McInroy, Robert William
Awarding Body: University of Hull
Current Institution: University of Hull
Date of Award: 2013
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Cormac McCarthy seeks to understand human community, the bonds of love which mark humanity, and the impact when those bonds are broken. Throughout his career, however, his work has increasingly focused on a quest for some spiritual core to existence, unfolding against a backdrop of modernity in crisis. These preoccupations can be read in the context of St Augustine’s City of Man and the search for passage into the City of God: there is the dualistic nature of man, with his ability to love and his capacity for destructiveness, driven by the promise of salvation beyond the material realm. I examine what appears to be a sustained sense of hostility in McCarthy’s fiction to modernity. I use the philosophy of Eric Voegelin to demonstrate that McCarthy’s fiction synthesises elements of what Voegelin describes as modern gnosticism, a sense that modern humanity has usurped God and seeks to establish an immanent heaven-on-earth. These preoccupations begin to dominate McCarthy’s writing and, in his continual search for passage to the City of God, he begins to lose those notions of community which informed his earlier work. McCarthy’s understanding of human community is acute and challenging. Suttree is a search for love, meaning and redemption in a hostile world. However, when his preoccupation with spiritual understanding is at its fullest, notably in Blood Meridian and the Border Trilogy, it runs the risk of overwhelming the narrative. There is, in the relentless malignancy of judge Holden or the failed prophets of the Trilogy, a tendency towards didacticism which ultimately compromises the fiction. Therefore, despite the consensus among most McCarthy scholars that Blood Meridian is his masterpiece, I argue that it is flawed. Moreover, it marks a development in his writing which means that, in subsequent fiction, he fails to reach the heights achieved in Suttree.
Supervisor: Not available Sponsor: European Association for American Studies
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral
EThOS ID:  DOI: Not available
Keywords: American studies