Abstract

This article offers an intervention in one of the most significant critical debates to arise from Cormac McCarthy's Border Trilogy. This is the debate surrounding the trilogy's refusal of the normative conventions of the Bildungsroman and apparent withdrawal into regressive, deflationary and otherwise anticlimactic formations at the levels of narrative, character, and language. The essay argues that, while often compelling, previous engagements with this issue (for instance by James Lilley, Andrew Hoberek, and Gail Moore Morrison) have failed to register the significance of McCarthy's antipathy toward literary production and his own biographical and institutional position as an author as the source of this structural regression. The article then reads the trilogy on the basis of this antipathetic relationship with its own literary form, placing particular emphasis on the allegorical function of the collapse of paternal authority and the cultivation of a postmodern philosophy of subjectivity, which is primarily rooted in Lacanian psychology. This reading aims in particular to highlight the significance of the links that exist between this textual logic displayed in the trilogy and a wider contemporary historical backdrop, which is defined in terms of a national crisis of literary production.

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