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“Some third and other destiny”: The Unresolved Dialectic of Agency in Cormac McCarthy’s Blood Meridian
Stockholm University, Faculty of Humanities, Department of English.
2011 (English)Independent thesis Advanced level (degree of Master (One Year)), 10 credits / 15 HE creditsStudent thesis
Abstract [en]

Many critics have conceded that Cormac McCarthy’s Blood Meridian is an ambiguous novel; however, the very same critics have often argued also that the novel’s contradictions are eventually resolved. It will be argued in this essay that the multiplicity of McCarthy’s text primarily regards a problematic of agency—a question as to whether or not humanity is a force to be reckoned with in the world. It will also be argued that this question takes the form of a dialectic that the novel leaves unresolved, and that this, in its turn, is an important feature of the text—a feature originating from contemporary ideology, from late capitalism’s contradictory-ridden relation to the ”Real”. Blood Meridian portrays atrocities resulting from the 19th century Westward expansion of the United States unsparingly; the reader gets to witness a violent subsumption of the indigenous population, and is informed about a nascent extinction of the buffalo. The text also implicitly discusses the difficulties of representing violence and suffering aesthetically; however, Blood Meridian offers no final conclusion regarding whether or not humanity—and especially the Western World—is ultimately to blame for these phenomena. Via an unresolved dialectic of agency, then, McCarthy’s text renders history both alterable and reified, mankind both agent and powerless instrument. The following essay traces this feature to late capitalism’s exhaustion of the Earth’s resources and animal life, its Western-centric subjugation of other cultures, and its tendency to interpellate Western “man” as the centered subject of the Earth, while simultaneously liberating this subject from the responsibilities that come with such a position. It will eventually be proposed here that Blood Meridian’s contradictions is the result of a text that seeks redemption, both by an evasive attempt to write humanity back into harmony with nature, and by expressing a declaration of Western guilt.

Place, publisher, year, edition, pages
2011. , 29 p.
Keyword [en]
Cormac McCarthy, Blood Meridian, Marxism
National Category
Languages and Literature
URN: urn:nbn:se:su:diva-61765OAI: diva2:437491
2011-02-04, Stockholms Universitet, Stockholms universitet Engelska institutionen 106 91 Stockholm, Stockholm, 16:58 (English)
Humanities, Theology
Available from: 2011-09-30 Created: 2011-08-29 Last updated: 2011-09-30Bibliographically approved

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