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Week 18

Cormac McCarthy Blood Meridian 1985


Rick Wallach. "Judge Holden, Blood Meridian's Evil Archon." Sacred Violence. first edition. El Paso: Texas Western Press, 1995, 125-136 or second edition 2002, 1-13.

Richard Slotkin.  Gunfighter Nation: the myth of the frontier in twentieth-century America. University of Oklahoma Press, 1998, Introduction, Attrition, and Conclusion.  (Not enough copies in the library!)

Richard Slotkin. Regeneration Through Violence. Middleton: Wesleyan University Press, 1973, Chapters 1 & 14.

Richard Slotkin. The Fatal Environment. Norman: University of Oklahoma Press, 1998 (first published 1985) Chapter 2.


Points for Discussion
  • "McCarthy manages to revise Western history, reinserting violence, landscape, and common human experience, and he does this through the subject of the lowly cowboy, challenging the backbone conceptual structure of the demonstrably patriarchal Classic Western. In his concern with sons and fathers, men and nation, and the inherited ways of masculine life, is McCarthy not also calling into question the patriarchal mythology? "(James Bradbury - former BA & MA student)
    Consider all or part of this intellectual proposition.
  • McCarthy is writing a revisionist historical fiction.
  • MyCarthy reinserts violence into Western history.
  • McCarthy challenges conceptual structures of the Classic Western, including notions of patriarchy and also its political reactionary conservatism.
  • Think about the portrayal of "the kid". How does that function in relation to stories/myths about Billy the Kid?
  • What does the Judge represent?
  • In what ways might we see this text as critiquing post-Enlightenment modernity?
  • "Myths are stories drawn from a society's history that have acquired through persistent usage the power of symbolizing that society's ideology and of dramatizing its moral consciousness – with all the complexities and contradictions that consciousness may contain." (Richard Slotkin. Gunfingter Nation 5). In what ways is Blood Meridian an appropriate retellng of the American national myth?
  • The Atlantic  described Blood Meridian as "the most beautifully written, unrelievedly ghastly chronicle of violence, carnage, torture, rapine, plunder, murder and every other conceivable variety of barbarism to be found anywhere in our literature." What is the significance of violence in Cormac McCarthy's writing?
  • Analyse the encounters with old men as "prophets."  What is the function of these episodes in the text?
  • How does McCarthy's style contribute to the overall argument of the novel?
You will find that my online notes on All the Pretty Horses include relevant background materials for Blood Meridian.
Further Reading

Arnold, E.T. & Luce, D.C. eds. Perspectives on Cormac McCarthy. Jackson, Mississippi: University Press of Mississippi, 1993.

Arnold, E.T. & Dianne C. Luce. Eds. A Cormac McCarthy Companion: The Border Trilogy. Jackson: University of Mississippi Press, 2001.

Austin M. & Muir, J. Writing the Western Landscape. Boston: Beacon Press, 1994.

Bell, V.M. The Achievement of Cormac McCarthy. Baton Rouge: Louisiana State University Press, 1988.

Hall, Wade & Wallach eds. Sacred Violence: A Reader’s Companion to Cormac McCarthy. El Paso, Texas: Texas Western Press, 1995.

Hall, Wade and Rick Wallach. Eds.  Sacred Violence: Cormac McCarthy's Western Novels. 2nd edition. vol. 2. University of Texas at El Paso: Texas Western Press,  2002.

Holloway, David. The Late Modernism of Cormac McCarthy. Westport: Greenwood Press, 2002.

Wallach, Rick. Ed. Myth, Legend, Dust: Critical Responses to Cormac McCarthy. New York: Manchester University Press, 2000.

Check out the Cormac McCarthy Society website.