Upon uncertain ice: contingency, being and witness in later Cormac McCarthy
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Interest in Cormac McCarthy¿s writing has grown rapidly over the past decade, with an attendant increase in the scholarly attention paid to his works. The author's long affiliation with the Santa Fe Institute (SFI) has often been remarked upon, but little scholarship has attempted to explore the potential interplay between some of SFI-period McCarthy's thematic and stylistic traits and a way of viewing the world encouraged by SFI's complexity science milieu. This thesis addresses that scholarly gap by way of a series of close readings of the five McCarthy novels from All the Pretty Horses (1992) to The Road (2006). The analysis identifies and teases out the overarching emphasis on contingency that distinguishes the SFI-period novels and gradually develops an original way of reading McCarthy's later metaphysics with respect to complexity and emergence. McCarthy's use of paratactic syntax is examined in detail and its various functions are enumerated; an allegorical relationship between his style and his novels' fictive metaphysics is argued for. The Border Trilogy's exploration of contingency is detailed alongside its celebration of the imaginative capacity to generate narrative. The prevalence of references to contingent fortune in No Country for Old Men (2005) is examined, as is the way that the novel continues McCarthy's drift away from supernaturalism to a more metaphysically naturalist worldview. The affective power of The Road is analysed and related to its depiction of a world in which the contingency of the global biosphere is made frighteningly apparent. Finally, the focus on contingency and the tension between the being of the world and its witnessing are brought together and read through the lens of emergence. In doing so, this thesis uses its thorough close readings as the solid foundation of an attempt to present a new way of reading later McCarthy's fictive metaphysics.