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  • Print publication year: 2020
  • Online publication date: December 2019

Chapter 13 - Gnosticism

from Part III - Intellectual Contexts


Cormac McCarthy scholars have long noted the Gnostic themes evident in the author’s work. Like many of his literary influences, McCarthy’s novels focus on the problems of suffering, violence, and evil, but McCarthy displays a unique tendency to examine these matters in the context of the Gnostic worldview, examining the nature of the divine soul in the material world, humanity’s tenuous place within the indifferent cosmos, and questions regarding religious authority, all fundamental both to the Gnostic religious experience and to understanding McCarthy’s literary oeuvre. While critics have most often focused on Outer Dark, Suttree, and Blood Meridian in their analysis of McCarthy’s Gnostic themes and imagery, McCarthy’s general focus on problematic human authorities, and the problematic nature of authority in all human affairs, especially law and religion, appears in practically all of McCarthy’s novels, beginning with The Orchard Keeper. McCarthy’s portrayals of authority demonstrate his knowledge of original Gnostic texts and the influential scholarly works that first explained these texts to the wider world after the discovery of the Nag Hammadi library.