On Time, History, And Metaphysics: The Thought of Cormac McCarthy and Walter Benjamin
TitleOn Time, History, And Metaphysics: The Thought of Cormac McCarthy and Walter Benjamin
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AbstractWalter Benjamin and Cormac McCarthy — one a German philosopher and critic, the other an American novelist, playwright, and screenwriter — have much in common. Stylistically, both use a mixture of short and long but poetic phrases that seem to cut right through to the heart. There is also the matter of historical examination. Benjamin most famously said that "there is no document of civilization which is not at the same time a document of barbarism." McCarthy would likely agree: consider his Blood Meridian, which pits the monstrous Judge Holden against everyone else, and Captain White's crew, to which the Judge belongs, against Native Americans, who are also quite violent. McCarthy, like Benjamin, explores the meaning of storytelling. For instance, the father, in The Road, informs his son of the world that has now crumbled into dust; both of them inhabit a post-apocalyptic landscape. Finally, both writers alternate between a materialism and an understanding of the mystical, the metaphysical, the transcendent side of existence, occupying a sort of liminal space. This paper will explore these connections. It will focus on the following McCarthy novels: The Road, No Country for Old Men, and Blood Meridian. And, for Benjamin: Illuminations, Selected Writings, paying particular attention to "Theses on the Philosophy of History" and "The Storyteller."