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This chapter offers a critical overview of all of McCarthy’s works with a special emphasis on the relationship of those works to events in his life. Born in 1933, in Providence, Rhode Island, McCarthy moved to Knoxville, Tennessee as a child when his father took a job as a lawyer for the Tennessee Valley Authority. He attended the University of Tennessee for a time (majoring in Liberal Arts), where he discovered his ambition to write. His early novels explore the environment around Knoxville and are portentous inquiries into the traumas related to historical change and the nature of evil. In later years, he moved west, and from 1992 onward his work is generally set in the American West. He continues with many of the same thematic concerns as he explores major philosophical and religious themes more deeply. Through his affiliation with the Santa Fe Institute, he developed an interest in scientific inquiry, and this has become a major preoccupation in his work, especially in later years.
Cormac McCarthy is a writer informed by an intense curiosity. His interests range from the natural world, to philosophy and religion, to history and culture. Cormac McCarthy in Context offers readers the opportunity to understand how various influences inform his rich body of work. The collection explores the relationship McCarthy has with his favourite authors, writers such as Herman Melville, William Faulkner, and Ernest Hemingway. Other contexts are tremendously informative, including the American Romance tradition of the nineteenth century as well as modernity and the modernist literary movement. Influence and context are of absolute importance in understanding McCarthy, who is now being understood as one of the most significant authors of the contemporary period.
This Companion provides a comprehensive introduction to one of the most vibrant and expansive traditions in world literature. The American West occupies a unique place in the global imagination, and the literature it produced transcends the category of 'region' in theme and form. Written by prominent international scholars, the essays cover a diverse group of key texts and authors, including major figures in the Native American, Hispanic, Asian American, and African American movements. Treatments range from environmental and ecopoetic to transnational and transcultural, reflecting the richness of the field. This volume places the literature in deep historical context and features a chronology and a bibliography for further reading. It will be an essential guide for students of literature of the American West and of American literature generally.