“Between the Dream and Reality”: Divination in the Novels of Cormac McCarthy

Robert A. Kottage, Electronic Theses and Dissertations, 2013, Paper 2310.

Abstract: Divination is a trope Cormac McCarthy employs time and again in his work. Augury, haruspicy, cartomancy, voodoo, sortition and oneiromancy all take their places in the texts, overtly or otherwise, as well as divination by bloodshed (a practice so ubiquitous as to have no formal name). But mantic practices which aim at an understanding of the divine mind prove problematic in a universe that often appears godless – or worse. My thesis uses divination as the starting point for a close reading of each of McCarthy’s novels. Research into Babylonian, Greek, Roman and African soothsaying practices is included, as well as the insights of a number of McCarthy scholars. But the work of extra- literary scholars – philologists, Jungian psychologists, cultural anthropologists and religious historians whose works explore the origins of human violence and the spiritual impulse – is also invoked to shed light on McCarthy’s evolving perspective.