"The ugly fact is books are made out of books", Cormac McCarthy has said in an interview. While McCarthy for several decades has been a highly respected "writer's writer", it is only in recent years ... read more
"The ugly fact is books are made out of books", Cormac McCarthy has said in an interview. While McCarthy for several decades has been a highly respected "writer's writer", it is only in recent years that he has gained widespread popular and critical recognition. In this class, we will read a substantial portion of McCarthy's literary output, from his first novel The Orchard Keeper published in 1965 to his most recent Pulitzer Prize-winning novel The Road from 2006. Our aim will be at once to analyze recurring themes and changing styles in his work through close readings, and to place his novels in both their literary and historical contexts. In other words, in order to gain a deeper understanding of McCarthy's own books, we will seek to identify some of the other books (both fiction and nonfiction) from which they are made. This means that alongside our reading of novels by McCarthy, we will also read excerpts and stories from Herman Melville, William Faulkner, Flannery O'Connor, and Ernest Hemingway, as well as seek to unravel an eclectic range of sources and references from the King James Bible to Ralph Waldo Emerson and Paul Valéry. In order to contextualize his novels in terms of genre, we will further examine the genre conventions he draws upon, such as the Southern Gothic, the Western, and post-apocalyptic fiction, by accompanying our reading of McCarthy with critical and theoretical texts.
For our first session, as way of introduction, please read Cormac McCarthy's 1992 New York Times interview with Richard Woodward entitled "Cormac McCarthy's Venomous Fiction"
We will read the following novels by Cormac McCarthy: The Orchard Keeper (1965), Child of God (1973), Suttree (1979), Blood Meridian (1985), and The Road (2006).