Date of Award

Spring 1-1-2019

Document Type

Thesis

Degree Name

Master of Arts (MA)

First Advisor

Karen Jacobs

Second Advisor

Mark Winokur

Third Advisor

Karim Mattar

Abstract

Scholars of Cormac McCarthy’s fiction often cite the violence typically present within it as abundant in its volume and nihilistic in its meaning. However, the violence in McCarthy’s work atypically does not exist for show or snuff or to progress the plot. Instead, the author repeatedly meditates upon violence and proffers dark assertions as to the nature of violence. In Blood Meridian, the bloodlust of the antagonist, Judge Holden, emerges from a being and a philosophy of the land. From the Darwinian struggle for supremacy articulated by Holden and reified by the content of the narrative, a posthuman condition built upon inter- and intraspecies violence that decentralizes the human emerges. McCarthy does this in Blood Meridian (1985) and The Road (2006) to articulate the violence inherent in the contemporary status quo of the primary human/biological condition, via respective examinations of bloodthirst in the American Southwest in 1849-50 and a post-apocalyptic near-future.

However, this thesis will primarily argue that McCarthy tempers the violence present in these works with the emergence of a morality based in posthumanism. Drawing heavily from Elizabeth Grosz’ posthuman Darwinism as well as theory on the Anthropocene and other posthumanists, this essay will argue that central characters in Blood Meridian and The Road reject participation in the violence that unfolds around them and, in doing so, transcend the kill-or-be-killed binary posited as fundamental to life on earth in McCarthy’s two novels. Their transcendence is marked by the responsibilities of those species, namely humans, that have succeeded in a Darwinian framework, and that the steps beyond a continued cornucopianist existence valued in the Anthropocene lie in the application of posthuman theory to life and systems beyond the human.

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