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

Chapter 15 - Nineteenth- and Twentieth-Century Philosophy

from Part III - Intellectual Contexts


This chapter reads Cormac McCarthy’s fiction as a twentieth-century American variant of what may be called metaphysical inquiries by literary means. I argue that what is missing in the current scholarship is a proper reexamination of the resonance between McCarthy’s fiction and the deeply philosophical traditions into which it taps. I critically approach such a reexamination, first, by showing how exemplary readings have connected nineteenth- and twentieth-century philosophy to McCarthy’s oeuvre, and, second, by proposing a recontextualization of the author’s work to the past 200 years of Western philosophical thought. I do so by presenting a new approach to the epilogue of Cities of the Plain (1998), informed by McCarthy’s recently published non-fictional essays on the origin of language, or what the writer calls “The Kekulé Problem” (2017). This approach ultimately inquires into McCarthy’s concept of nature and his notion of being human.

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