An ecocritical approach to the southern novels of Cormac McCarthy
Quick, Paul Sanders
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Using the three streams of radical environmental philosophy—deep ecology, ecofeminism, and social ecology—this study highlights the subtle and complex environmental ethic in Cormac McCarthy’s southern novels. It also reassesses the critical consensus that these works are expressions of existentialist or nihilistic philosophy. By delineating the different relationships that McCarthy’s heroes and antiheroes have with nonhuman nature, an ecocritical analysis views their alienation as the effect of their separation from nonhuman nature. At the root of this alienation is an anthropocentric and mechanistic mode of thinking that is dominant in Western philosophy and that this study defines as Cartesian. While McCarthy’s environmentalist heroes are persecuted by Cartesian institutions and displaced from the land on which they have defined themselves and made meaning, his Cartesian anti-heroes represent extreme manifestations of Cartesian thinking. McCarthy’s environmentalism is as much a critique and indictment of Cartesian thinking as it is a portrayal of the value of a life lived in close contact with nonhuman nature.