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Counternarrative Possibilities

Virgin Land, Homeland, and Cormac McCarthy’s Westerns

Counternarrative Possibilities reads Cormac McCarthy’s westerns against the backdrop of American mythology’s two formative national tropes: virgin land (from the 1950s) and homeland (after 9/11). Looking at McCarthy’s westerns in the context of American studies, James Dorson shows how his books counter the national narratives underlying these tropes and reinvest them with new, potentially transformative meaning. Departing from prevailing accounts of McCarthy that place him in relation to his literary antecedents, Counternarrative Possibilities takes a forward-looking approach that reads McCarthy’s work as a key influence on millennial fiction. Weaving together disciplinary history with longstanding debates over the relationship between aesthetics and politics, this book is at once an exploration of the limits of ideology critique in the twenty-first century and a timely, original reconsideration of McCarthy’s work after postmodernism.

360 pages | 5 1/2 x 8 3/8 | © 2016  

Literature and Literary Criticism: American and Canadian Literature

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“McCarthy’s long surge into academic and popular consciousness began more than twenty years ago, so finding fresh scholarly terrain is increasingly difficult. Taking a theoretical approach that is fresh and useful, Dorson proves that all is not exhausted. His study centers on the idea that McCarthy’s Western novels provide ‘a model for renewed narrative agency in the twenty-first century.’ Employing the term ‘counternarrative,’ Dorson takes a less reductive approach. . . . He argues that one should look for a mode in McCarthy that does not simply disturb and muddy cultural waters but instead casts a transformative influence across new millennial fiction. One of Dorson's strongest claims is that Blood Meridian’s horrible Judge Holden merely shelters the reader from the ‘real horror in the novel . . . the horror of the Real’—i.e., the horror of narrative stillness and silence hovering between and beneath the book’s violent incantations and soaring rhetoric. . . . Dorson provides an eloquent encapsulation of scholarly approaches regarding the affirmation and subversion of romantic narratives in the novels. And throughout he offers wonderful connections to Herman Melville and James Joyce. Highly recommended.”

E. Hage, SUNY Cobleskill | Choice

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