Flawed hearts : prophetic voices in the novels of Cormac McCarthy.
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Beavers, James Aaron.
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Recent criticism has observed a return to questions of religion and spirituality in the contemporary novel. According to these critics, the “postsecular” turn in recent fiction returns to religious forms in a hybridized or attenuated way, or simply adopts the tone and appearance of religion without taking seriously its content. While these conclusions are undoubtedly true for many authors, they are complicated by my study of Cormac McCarthy’s novels. In my dissertation, I argue that McCarthy’s novels draw heavily on the traditions and idioms established by the ancient Hebrew prophets and that many of his characters behave as reluctant prophets who bear witness to revelation in spite of themselves. The revelation these characters receive is mysterious, and their oracles are paradoxically silent, often being enacted rather than spoken, but this is consistent with a prophetic understanding of the nature of God as outlined in the work of theologians like Walter Brueggemann and Abraham Heschel. As I argue, the ancient prophets were primarily concerned not to foretell the future, but to speak to specific cultures and address specific concerns in a way that would communicate most effectively. Like the prophets they resemble, many of McCarthy’s characters criticize the prevailing culture that perpetuates the status quo of unjust governments, oppressive economics, and tamed religion. These characters also gesture towards an alternative vision of reality rooted in charity towards others and the radical freedom of God. Thus, these prophetic characters, often in ignorance of their meaning, bear messages of the mystery and radical freedom of God by dramatic actions and indirect symbols. They are not so much speaking prophets as acting ones, and their lives and bodies bear the oracles of God’s mysterious revelation.