Blood Meridian – Lectures

Seems like Cormac McCarthy’s Blood Meridian has been in the news and the blogosphere a lot lately.

To keep it going I’ve navigated over to the Open Yale course series, and specifically to Prof Amy Hungerford’s course The American Novel Since 1945.

In the first of two lectures, Professor Hungerford explains the novel’s primary sources and influences to show how McCarthy nods to literary tradition and American history and ruminates on notions of originality itself. McCarthy feeds from the Bible, Moby-Dick, Paradise Lost, the poetry of William Wordsworth, and the historical narrative of Sam Chamberlain to style and theme a novel that continues to be a relevant meditation on history, exploring limits of storytelling and human tenacity.

The second lecture builds on the first as Prof Hungerford constructs a broad argument about how the novel presents good and evil, using the Bible the illiterate protagonist carries with him to show us how the traditional hero can be subverted. Hungerford argues that McCarthy truly succeeds in invoking his sources–biblical, literary, and historical–by overturning their moral content. As Hungerford notes, “Much as the kid holds the Bible an object and not a spiritual guide, McCarthy seizes the material of language–its sound, its cadences–for ambiguous, if ambitious, ends.”

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