This article argues that violence in Cormac McCarthy’s Blood Meridian is attributed to an allegory of sovereignty found in the work. As such, Giorgio Agamben’s notion of state of exception—a sovereign space of suspended law—is the common denominator for violence in the novel, which reduces human life to an animalized existence known as bare life and accounts for the novel’s unanthropocentric viewpoint. The state of exception is first enacted by way of the illegal scalp-hunting contract exchanged between Governor Trias and the Glanton gang, which is mediated by the judge. Furthermore, Holden’s place of privilege at the governor’s side in his palace demonstrates allegorically the relationship of the king and his court jester-fool, thus signaling the sovereign’s need for chaos and violence for validation. Ultimately, this article interprets Blood Meridian as a novel that can be understood as a biopolitical metaphor for the modern nation-state.

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