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Reading: A World “Made of Breath”: Cormac McCarthy and the Oral Storytelling Tradition

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A World “Made of Breath”: Cormac McCarthy and the Oral Storytelling Tradition

Author:

Joshua Kim

Abstract

Cormac McCarthy is an American author who has written many novels and plays, including literary “hits” such as Blood Meridian: Or the Evening Redness in the West, All the Pretty Horses, No Country for Old Men, and The Road. Though one may be tempted to categorize him for further study, McCarthy is notoriously difficult to classify; in doing so, a person “pigeonholes” McCarthy in the most negative sense of the word. McCarthy is taught in university courses ranging from modernist American literature and Southwestern American literature to contemporary fiction and Southern literature. As Dana Phillips astutely observes, scholars of the author’s oeuvre are generally divided into two camps: one that classifies him as a Southern writer, and the other that considers him a Western writer of the American notion and tradition. Neither classification, however, captures McCarthy and his works with full accuracy. Furthermore, as Steven Frye and Timothy Parrish have noted in their respective articles that, though McCarthy’s specific reading habits are not readily known, scholars are aware of his literary influences. They range from Homer, Dante, Shakespeare, Lucretius, St. Augustine, and the King James Bible to William Faulkner, Flannery O’Connor, Ernest Hemingway, Herman Melville, and Fyodor Dostoevsky. In short, McCarthy has been shaped by a Western narrative tradition that both predates literature (“the art of letters”) itself and continues to make its presence felt in contemporary literary realities (Scholes et al.
17).
Keywords: Storytelling  
How to Cite: Kim, J., 2018. A World “Made of Breath”: Cormac McCarthy and the Oral Storytelling Tradition. Philologia, 10. DOI: http://doi.org/10.5334/ph.v10i0.3
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Published on 30 Apr 2018.
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