Seams in the Desert: Cormac McCarthy’s Literary Ontology of Place

Comparative and Continental Philosophy 6 (2):178-195 (2014)
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This article proposes a philosophical reception of writer Cormac McCarthy’s work, a reception oriented specifically toward the subject of “place” as a primary ontological register in two of his novels. More than a mere appraisal of his descriptive prose or the moral weight of his themes, this reading examines the interrogative dimension of his border-country landscapes and the existential horizon distilled therein. Read with reference to the philosophies of Martin Heidegger and Maurice Merleau-Ponty, I argue that McCarthy’s storied concentration on place seeks to retrieve the question of primordial givenness from beneath the determinations of epistemic and objectivist judgments. So doing, his orientation parallels and contributes to an important and unsettled tension in phenomenological ontology and its aftermath: the question as to whether poetic or visual modes of ontological “measure-taking” are more appropriate to the question of the meaning, truth, and history of being. Ultimately McCarthy shows us the necessary and productive interplay of both.



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Poetry, Language, Thought.Martin Heidegger - 1971 - Journal of Aesthetics and Art Criticism 31 (1):117-123.
Pathmarks.Martin Heidegger (ed.) - 1998 - Cambridge University Press.
Eye and Mind.Maurice Merleau-Ponty - 1964 - In The Primacy of Perception. Evanston, USA: Northwestern University Press. pp. 159-190.

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