The Evolving Character of Cormac McCarthy’s Project: New Insights and Interventions

deadline for submissions: 
October 1, 2021
full name / name of organization: 
Jonathan Elmore Savannah State University

The Evolving Character of Cormac McCarthy’s Project: New Insights and Interventions

Edited by Jonathan Elmore and Rick Elmore

This volume begins from our conviction that the field of McCarthy Studies is at an exciting moment of expansion and reassessment. While early engagements were shaped primarily by debates over the nihilistic and religious character of McCarthy’s thought, there arose in these studies a growing consensus that, while bleak, McCarthy’s thought offered more than a pessimistic description of the decadence and evils of contemporary American life. For example, early religious and gnostic readings saw in McCarthy’s novels the promise of grace and redemption, even if this possibility remained for many of them fundamentally inarticulable. This assertion of a “positive” orientation in McCarthy’s thought gave rise to an explosion of ethical, philosophical, and political readings from Lydia Cooper’s No More Heroes: Narrative Perspective and Morality in Cormac McCarthy (2011) and Petra Mundik’s A Bloody and Barbarous: The Metaphysic of Cormac McCarthy (2016) to Russell Hillier’s Morality in Cormac McCarthy’s Fiction (2018) and Julius Greve’s Shreds of Matter: Cormac McCarthy and the Concept of Nature (2018). In addition, we have seen a growing attention paid to the ecocritical, scientific, and anti-capitalist character of McCarthy’s work, elements that suggest a much more concrete set of ethical and political precepts at work in his thought. Despite this consensus concerning the prescriptive character of McCarthy’s project, there remains considerable debate over its character and contours. Despite the general agreement that McCarthy’s work offers a coherent and original philosophical project, scholars have struggled to give a convincing and concrete account of this project as a whole. Hence, the time seems ripe for a programmatic reassessment of the character of McCarthy’s project with a particular eye to the positive and prescriptive elements of his thought. 


We invite papers that explore how we might understand McCarthy’s project with an eye to the concrete positive and prescriptive elements of his thought. Given that scholars now generally agree that McCarthy’s work offers a revaluation, as well as critique, of contemporary social life, we invite submissions aimed at articulating the character, formation, and stakes of this revaluation. What specific possibilities are there in McCarthy’s work for reimagining modern life and reality? What are the moral, ethical, political, metaphysical, anthropological, scientific, cultural, and literary commitments, prescriptions, and possibilities that lie still dormant in McCarthy’s fiction and towards which his work orients us? What might the limitations of his project be? What new or underdeveloped paths lie yet to be cut through McCarthy’s fictions? What speculative yet concrete visions of life, the world, and the future does McCarthy’s fiction provoke at this historical moment, and how might these provocations help us better understand the unique challenges of our times? 

Given the emphasis of this volume on breaking new ground, we especially welcome speculative provocations and approaches. We would be happy to see chapters on individual works or concepts as well as pieces that treat multiple works, periods, and genres in both McCarthy’s corpus and film adaptions. All submissions should reflect an awareness of and engagement with the current state of McCarthy Studies. Possible chapter topics could include but are not limited to:

  • Geopolitical elements and commentary

  • Environmental concerns and treatments

  • Economic, anti/late/post-capitalist elements

  • Moral and ethical commitments

  • New metaphysical and theological readings

  • Themes of Identity, Race, and Gender 

  • New analyses of formal elements and conventions 

  • Criminality, law, and violence

  • New readings of McCarthy’s treatments of the US/Mexico border

  • Industrialism and post-industrialism

  • Posthumanism and philosophical anthropology

  • McCarthy and philosophy

Authors should send 500 word abstracts (we’re not overly attached to word count) and brief CVs to Jonathan Elmore ( and Rick Elmore ( Inquiries welcome. Final chapter manuscripts should be between 6000-8000 words. 


Tentative timeline for this project:

Abstracts due: October 1st, 2021

Authors notified of acceptance: October 15th, 2021

Full chapters due: March 1st, 2022

Revision due to editors: May 1st, 2022

Full volume sent to press: June 1st, 2022