Cormac McCarthy and the Founding Violence That Never Ends

At the very least, the work of Cormac McCarthy is so cumulatively imposing as to compel his readers to entertain the claim that he is preeminent among American novelists. While he has his detractors, even those commentators and critics disinclined to answer in the affirmative are impressed with the volume of his oeuvre, his virtuosity when it comes to a plurality of styles, which shift between the narrative and symbolic in both minimalist and maximalist linguistic keys, his commitment to the lower literary registers of the Western and the bare fable, the giant risks he takes in daring to construct the myth or counter-myth of America, and finally with the construction of characters which, though rarely subtle, haunt the imagination, even as we never truly never get to know them. Speaking in the broadest of terms, his oeuvre can be divided into those works published before Blood Meridian (1985) and those that come after. Therefore, the early novels such as Outer Dark (1968), Child of God (1973), and even Suttree (1979) which, even if influenced by Southern Gothic, hold their ground in a narrative that weaves complex and interesting stories in landscapes that are either neutral or not-determinative of human action, can be contrasted with those such as Blood Meridian, the Border Trilogy (1992-1995), No Country for Old Men (2005) and The Road (2006) in which barren landscapes of sand, rock, ice, riven by either heat or cold, both represent and construct the savage heart.

This division is not simply one of convenience. There is general agreement among literary commentators that despite the excellence of a novel such as Suttree a critical verdict is predicated on the work that begins with Blood Meridian, which presents a reflection on violence that is as raw and visceral as anything in modern American literature. Although throughout his work McCarthy both makes sure that the reader knows that violence is without limit and beginning, and thus in the end universal, his particular interest is in exposing the violent underpinnings of modern America through his explorations of the savagery of the borderlands in the post-Civil War period. He wants to remind an America interested in forgetting and wedded to constructing stories of progress and peace that violence is its heritage and, arguably, its foundation.

Violence and its Representation in Blood Meridian

The representation of violence in Blood Meridian is so graphic and constant, the welter of blood so overwhelming, the transgression against human decency so inordinate that the reader is compelled to ask the question whether she has been seduced into participating in the violent economy so persuasively, indeed, so beautifully rendered by McCarthy. I will return to the questionableness of McCarthy’s classic at the end of this essay. But first, by way of speaking to his masterpiece that provides the basic code for the books that follow, it should be said that we as readers are dealing with a book that is at once a story and a non-story. Blood Meridian quite obviously tells a story, maybe even weaves a yarn, that depicts the actions of a marauding band of mercenaries in the Southwest in the 19th century. The renegade group is involved in the massacres of Indians and Mexicans, enormous amounts of murders and rapes, gratuitous acts of violence, and their atrocities respect neither ethnic group, age, gender, nor relative innocence or guilt. As the story unfolds the outrages of this group mount, but in due course so also do their casualties until there are but two survivors. The story has an aftermath, which, of course, is really an important part of the story, in that years later the two survivors of the holocaust have an unscheduled showdown that puts a seal on the story and contributes to its challenging darkness.

At the same time, it is also true that in essence Blood Meridian is a non-story. This band’s purposeless crossing and recrossing desert, plateau, and mountain, from East to West, from West to East and their bloody encounters with various groups of Indians and Mexicans seeps into the very form of the novel and makes it a cipher. Blood Meridian depicts a world in which a human and reliable world either never comes into being or having come into being reverts to chaos. The retracing back and forth is connected with the motiveless nature of the killing. Even the scalping of the Indians, which had in the beginning an economic motive for the mercenaries in that they were to be paid for scalps as proof of the removal of a potential “enemy,” in the end becomes a thing-in-itself. And in what comes to be seen as clueless wandering in the desert, which from the very beginning of Western literature is regarded as markless, our sullen band of killers, resigned to the logic of kill and be killed, often take the shape of specters, apocalyptic horsemen, ghastly reapers of quivering and fragile flesh.

In a world that tends towards the condition of chaos, while violence is the great leveler of social station, nonetheless, the structure of the band of mercenaries which is pure aggregate is hardly egalitarian. Like Milton’s hell, the non-community of the mercenaries is fundamentally hierarchical. At the top of the ladder is the arch-outlaw Glanton. Glanton holds this position because he is more hard-boiled and more remote from conscience or contrition than all the other outlaws. He is an architect of massacres and the agent of random and gratuitous acts of violence against the innocent and the weak. At a step beyond even the top of the chain of the violent, however, lies the figure of Judge Holden, who throughout is referred to simply as “the Judge.” In the eyes of the other mercenaries/outlaws he is different in kind than all the rest. In fact he is the other, the outlaw who has undergone apotheosis and who even in their presence is so sacral as to have become myth. His difference is not defined by his being a foreigner, a Dutchman, or by the fact that he is that strange thing, that is, a scholar-scientist in the lunar landscapes of the Southwest. Nor is it defined by the fact that he is even more implacable (if possible) than Glanton and even more at home in violence. It is not even because of his enormous size and preternatural baldness.

What makes him different is that he brings a high eloquence to slaughter and a reflective point of view of rare clarity. The Judge is a killer among killers. He is not satisfied, however, with being the agent and sport of violence. He is also, perhaps primarily, its philosopher and prophet. Violence just happens to be Glanton’s milieu, as it with all the mercenaries in Blood Meridian and, indeed, as with many of the individuals and groups they encounter on their trackless way. In the menagerie of the disreputable violence is lived and lived through; it is never truly reflected on. In contrast, the Judge embraces with joy what all other killers suffer as their lot. He is the calm spokesman for violence; it is his prerogative to provide its philosophical justification. In this sense he is its sage. Since, however, his mode of discourse functions as an unveiling, he is also prophet and apocalyptic seer.

There are a number of primal truths the Judge takes to regulate all human and historical existence. War or violence defines the very nature of existence. War or violence is aboriginal; it is there from the foundation of the world. War or violence is perpetual; its tendency is to repeat and reproduce itself; and war and violence suggest that reality is without finality or aim; the point of all existence is precisely its pointlessness, its return to the chaos, quite literally the biblical chaos, tohu va bohu, from which it emerged. McCarthy allows us at once to be hypnotized by the glamour of the Judge or break free of it. In this respect we are in the same situation of crisis as the mercenaries who are inclined to invest in the glamour of the hierophant and his hieratic language and idolize while remaining open to divestment and iconoclasm.

But if we were to think of any of these propositions as being more typical and enjoying more force than the others, it would have to be that violence is perpetual. Violence is perpetual, because repeatable and reproducible. Violence is repeatable because violent actions leads to more violent actions. Violence is reproducible in that the violent actions of individuals or groups on other individual and groups beget violent reactions which in turn beget . . . Blood Meridian allows us to see that the et cetera of violence is not accidental, but that it forms a closed system from which it is almost impossible to break. Although there is much that separates them, arguably, this is an insight that McCarthy shares with Rene Girard.

The Languages of Violence

Although the Judge is a colossal pedant in many ways, he never cites his sources. Not only the content of the Judge’s discourse, but its hieratic prophetic form, which alternates between longwinded disquisition and aphorism, suggests Nietzsche, even if a Nietzsche who has been vulgarized and made a proponent of genocide. Even if we allow for the fact that the privileging of the term “war” over “violence” might reflect a discourse preoccupied with the American history of war and the Vietnam War in particular, one cannot ignore the fact that “war” makes its way into the philosophical lexicon via Baron von Clausewitz’s classic 1812 text that cuts against the traditions of both Western humanism and Christianity. And while the Judge refuses to speak a Christian language, and thus his naming of war and violence is as celebratory as Rene Girard’s is an apocalyptic lamentation, nonetheless, overall Blood Meridian avails of the language of biblical apocalyptic language to characterize the Judge, to speak to the catastrophe that represents the reversion to chaos, to unveil the universe covered in blood, and to discern the true nature of the soulless outlaws as apocalyptic horseman wreaking havoc on the innocent and the guilty alike, reaping both those who lust for life and those who have given up.

The Judge, although namable (if at all) only through apocalyptic language, is so set against Christianity that he not only refuses Christianity’s standard biblical form, but refuses its heretical versions. Set aside with the Christian God is the Gnostic demiurge who may have made the world his cosmic prison and us his playthings. If Christianity is rejected because it does not explain anything, Gnosticism is rejected because it explains too much. The one mercenary in Blood Meridian who is comfortable speaking a biblical language is the “ex-priest” Tobin, who really is not an ex-priest, but someone who has not given up the old dialect. Tobin is a vicious outlaw, but he also serves as a foil to the Judge. He not only breaks the code of the damned by leaving the outlaw group, he also has a different language for naming violence and evil.

We could even say that he has a different language of final judgment. This is the actual biblical-apocalyptic language that resists troping: the judgment of God on a world that resembles Sodom and Gomorrah and on the killers who carry the mark of Cain. There is only one mention of brother killing brother in the text, but it is interesting that there is any at all, given the central role the Cain and Abel story played in the explication of the relations between human beings. In Augustine, for example, the discussion of violence in history, or better, the violence that is history, is not intended to explain the origins of the torques and twists in the human condition, but describe the historical universality of violence in which it seems violence never ends. It seems that in the character of Tobin at least McCarthy has followed suit.

In speaking the biblical language of divine judgment Tobin also speaks, in some qualified way, the language of Augustine and Calvin. He does so without deciding in any way whether the evil perpetrated by violent human beings rests ultimately on human decision or the will of God. Ex-priest or not, Tobin is no theologian. He does not feel competent to make this judgment which is beyond the moment to moment demands of survival in a kill-or-be-killed world. He is either too wise or too tired to deal in causality. What he does know, because he deals with it first-hand and finds it within, is human depravity that will admit neither of correction nor true repentance. Tobin pushes aside as luxuries attempts to penetrate into the origins of the world or evil, instead sticking to experience, primarily the experience of being lost and bad all the way down. In a world that mystifies him in his small island of clarity Tobin has one insight that he wishes to communicate to the “kid,” who similarly stands adrift of the Judge.

This insight, for which Tobin become a witness and thus a victim, is that the Judge is a simulacrum of a deity, the kind of glamorous monster whose true form the apocalypse reveals. Crucially, even as a foil to the Judge who gorges on mischance and fattens on violence, not once is Tobin tempted to adduce the idea of a paradisiacal state. Of course, as indicated, Tobin knows what he does not know and stubbornly holds to the view that any speculation of beginning is illicit. But his reserve is no more a matter of epistemology than his failure to make a decision on the issue of predestination and free will is matter of theology. For him, it is enough—and in a sense already too much—to come to terms with the situation of his own existence and those he encounters which is summed up by violence that is perpetual.

Tobin seems to be used by McCarthy as a kind of aperture where we can get just enough distance from the fury of life to register it without being free of it. Violence is so much the perpetual present that it makes thinking a peaceful past and peaceful future impossible. It may even be the case that for a character like Tobin, who might represent McCarthy’s own critical assessment of war, that the perpetual nature of violence makes it ethically irresponsible to posit peace as a beginning and as an end. The site of the action and passion of human existence is East of Eden.

But whereas an Augustine would suggest that this history is a mixture of good and evil, not simply the Judge, but even Tobin, would want to say that violence so dominates that it is hard to see the mixture at all. Violence is anarchic: it is without beginning and end, without aim or goal. It occupies all times and spaces. Tobin wishes to bear this truth while bearing up under it. To imagine life otherwise is to give in to fantasy. The violent world can neither be affirmed nor negated; it simply has to be endured. In his posture of resignation Tobin seems far closer to the position of both Greek tragedy and Stoic philosophy than to Christianity. Interestingly, his position is not entirely unlike the position advocated by Simone Weil who thought that Christianity risked being mythological to the extent to which it imagined a world entirely otherwise than its actual construction which has the form of harsh necessity. Grace is outside the ordinance of necessity and its grinding down. It is not ruled out, but is a miracle beyond imagining.

For the judge, a recognition of the perpetual nature of violence such as that provided by Tobin is necessary but not sufficient. The Judge, whom Tobin calls at one point an “archimandrite,” perhaps recalling the desert-father like figure of the Grand Inquisitor, wants to say more. The Judge collects scraps of knowledge. He also collects scraps of profundities that deal with origins and ends. As a self-appointed seer he has no compunction about ultimate verdicts. The Judge pronounces nothing less than the final judgment on all of reality and is confident in his right to do so. To the extent to which the Judge has the last word, he also insists on having the first regulative word. McCarthy, who wants us to identify with the outlaws’ experience of bedazzlement when confronted by the Judge, also wants to gain some leverage in language and insight whereby to put his originality in question.

To be figured as a prophet in the wilderness is an old story and one that the Judge did not invent. Whether he likes it or not, the Judge ends up being a variant of biblical figuration and has to face the old question of whether he is a true or false prophet. The Judge’s originality also seems to fall away when we think of him in the register of sage. He most definitely is a philosophical autodidact, but just the kind of autodidact that always sounds like someone else, here alternatively like Nietzsche and Schopenhauer when he designates violence as the spinning wheel or dance of existence that will never become world. The metaphysical position seems more nearly to resemble that of Schopenhauer, while the existential stance seems closer to Nietzsche’s “eternal return” in which strength is a measure of whether we will or not will the tragedy and horror of existence.

In due course, I will broaden my discussion of violence as rendered by McCarthy beyond his masterpiece. Before doing this I would like to speak to the way McCarthy both exploits and elevates the genre of the Western. McCarthy exploits all aspects of the Western in both its print and cinematic versions: the harshness of life on the frontier where civilization is not guaranteed and in all likelihood is mere patina; the construction of outlaws that match the implacable landscapes; the encounter between outlaws who as the scourings of society symptom the malady of white American expansion into the West; the bloody encounter of these outlaws and the natives who are riddled by their own traumatic histories; overall the white’s massive advantages in technology (heavy guns, explosives) itself made possible by the American Civil War; and, of course, the sheer randomness of the violence and its escalation.

Blood Meridian differs from most examples of the Western genre (even the darker ones) in not having as offsets either the really good, the half-good, or the converted who make a stand for what is humane and decent. Certainly, McCarthy’s masterpiece is continuous with the revisionist camp of practitioners of the genre in that vis-à-vis both Indians and Mexicans—both of whom engage in atrocity and in the case of Indians real butchery—the white man is unforgettably evil: the white man glories in gore, initiates scalping, scalps more than is scalped, and avail of scalps as a medium of desecration, a final exclamation of non-value.

Just as Dostoevsky turns tabloid murders into high literature in Blood Meridian McCarthy elevates the Western into high literature and a real candidate for the most recent great American novel. Together with (but also cutting against) the meandering story that mimes the wandering of the sullen band of outlaws are tonal registers in language that are rarely, if ever, found in the language of the Western. It is not so much the sometime use of biblical symbolism that sprinkles when it does not saturate some of the best of American literature even when it does not seek to be religious. Rather, it is the almost Elizabethan nature of much of the language, which has the odd effect of making it seem as if Shakespeare was the true home of the Western. And with a little effort, it would not be too hard to track down references to King Lear, Macbeth, The Tempest, Richard III, and others.

Blood Meridian is faithful to the genre of the Western in that the novel abounds with laconic characters for whom language is something to be distrusted. Yet, McCarthy elevates the language, supplies a more copious vocabulary, and, in the case of the Judge, puts at the center of the text a bedazzling figure who is lavishly prolix. One can think of this transmutation of degree-zero to maximalist literary style throughout the novel as setting the stage for the extraordinary TV series Deadwood in which the main character, who cusses more than any TV character in history, is also given to soliloquize with Shakespearean eloquence and comprehensiveness about life and its actors. Blood Meridian is full of reference to the theater, actors, kings, fools and in the case of the Judge, who takes the eagle’s point of view, an unveiling of the farce of history indifferent to human intentions and hopes and ultimately reducible to power and its exertion.

Yet, if the Judge’s speech has its Shakespearean intonation, it also has its prophetic Nietzschean inflection. The Judge does not simply figure things out in real time and comes to fairly dark conclusions about history and human existence: he acts as if his vision of the meaninglessness of existence and its perpetual violence was an object of his insight from the beginning. In Blood Meridian McCarthy permits us to take an ironic distance from the Judge. We are not allowed to entirely ignore Tobin’s diagnosis, namely, that the Judge is insane. In any event, McCarthy cunningly builds into his description of the verbal merchant of the will-to-power a number of character traits that deflate the Toad-like grandiosity of the Judge who would be the judge of everything.

The Judge is not only stubborn and resolute, he collects tidbits of information like a hoarder and his consistency of point of view is obsessive. And his Nietzscheanism is that vulgar kind validated by Nietzsche’s sister and her one-time husband and Nazi sympathizer, Bernhard Foester, and perhaps also the proto-Fascist H. L. Mencken. It is not the prophetic-apocalyptic statements of the historical Nietzsche, which were marked by doubt, afflicted by pathos, and which were more nearly aesthetic insights than grounds for a program in which the weak perish and all that is not white removed from the book of existence, even if that book remains fundamentally illegible.

McCarthy and Weil

To read Blood Meridian without having read Simone Weil is one thing; to read it having read Simone Weil is quite another. I intimated such earlier when I invoked her in making a point about the common perception of the Judge and Tobin that history is the scene of necessity. Here I want to take up another thread in Weil’s discourse, which in its own way offers a language to name violence that is perpetual, but does so not primarily by appeal to history and to experience, but by appeal to an ancient text similarly fixated on war and prompting the question whether war is all and whether a counter-force is even imaginable. Weil’s essay, “The Iliad, or the Poem of Force,” has assumed a canonic role in the non-philological reading of this basic text of Western civilization as well as being routinely adduced as an example of what the essay can achieve.

In her justly famous essay Weil speaks to violence as being the ur-persona in the poem populated with individual characters and armies. The characters of Paris and Helen, Hector and Achilles, Agamemnon and Priam, are all very real. Ultimately, however, their agency is compromised, since none have the power to arrest violence or even for the most part take leave of it. They are all tools of violence, perhaps Achilles, who is the emblem of martial valor, most of all. Still, even Achilles, who is given to murderous rages and the violation of the conventions of war, has the occasional unwitting moment of reflection as to war’s cosmic uselessness. The Iliad unveils the repetition compulsion of war, its absolute randomness, as well as the truth that in the end no conventions of war hold. Achilles drags the body of Hector around Troy, just as Glanton’s and the Judge’s gang carry off the scalps of Indians and Mexicans.

The ground of the war, that is, Paris’s abduction of Helen, is flimsy, something that both sides recognize once the war commences. Yet, recognition does not make a cessation of hostilities truly thinkable. The compulsion lies, on the one hand, in the necessity for both sides to continue to kill, for a battle won is not a war won, and on the other, the rule that violence begets violence: outrages committed by one side call forth atrocities from the other. In the mode of lament rather than celebration Weil sees violence as perpetual because mechanical and outside the jurisdiction of human intention and morality. I want to say that Weil’s analysis of the Iliad transfers perfectly to Blood Meridian. This suggests at the very least that the Iliad and Blood Meridian ought to be read together. And if this seems right, maybe this goes some ways towards making a literary judgment as to whether Blood Meridian deserves to be called a classic text.

Weil’s famous essay does much more than think through the anatomy of war on the phenomenological and metaphysical level. She is also looking for signs of break with the cycle of repetition and reproduction of violence. I will return to Weil’s attempt to relativize the world of war in a moment. Perhaps it is time to mention at least some of McCarthy’s other texts in which violence is prominent. Nothing in McCarthy’s oeuvre remotely challenges the preeminence of Blood Meridian when it comes to the depiction of violence. As suggested already, Blood Meridian represents a break with a literary past which if it attempted to draw large characters and address big themes, does so with effort and in styles that are either inchoate or not fully satisfactory mixes of Faulkner, Conrad, Joyce and other writers of less significance. But McCarthy’s masterpiece is also profoundly generative. Its concentrated focus on violence, its use and transmutation of the Western, set the terms of future work such as the Border Trilogy, No Country for Old Men, and even The Road.

From the point of view of this essay, the latter point is the truly important one. I will restrict myself to making two observations. My first observation concerns the Border Trilogy and No Country for Old Men. If all of these novels are set in the Southwest, then the Southwest has become considerably more developed, domesticated, and supposedly successfully ruled by law. This rules out a repetition of the state of perpetual violence depicted in Blood Meridian. The issue now is whether the tendency to absolute violence has been erased or simply repressed. In the case of the Trilogy as well as No Country for Old Men, McCarthy answers his own urgent question. Violence is primal; it can, however, be repressed and hidden from view. But even so, it is prone to spasm from time to time and torment our illusions.

In the Border Trilogy violence lays close enough to the surface for these outbreaks to appear routine. Less so in No Country for Old Men. The institutions of law are long established, and though laws will be broken, their status is inviolable. In addition, there exists something like a consensus that killing is not for killing’s sake, but an effect of passion and rage which, however deplorable, we understand will break out from time to time. Or if not accidental in this way, again understandable when violence lines up with motive, with greed being first among equals. What is not comprehensible is violence that is neither accidental nor defined by motive. What cannot be assimilated, what deranges our thinking, is a violence whose economy obeys a mad logic all its own, a logic of balance almost musical in its pattern of point-counterpoint.

In No Country for Old Men, a novel that has none of the grandness of Blood Meridian or its high style, the return of the repressed occurs in the figure of the Indian. The Indian is the reversion to the archaic. Similar to what we found in Blood Meridian the Indian is first introduced as a mercenary; specifically he is hired to track down someone who has run off with drug money. As in his masterpiece, here too in No Country for Old Men, vices like greed prove to be as superficial as the complacent virtues of society. The Indian tracks down and kills the robber, and by the twisted logic of having threatened to kill the robber’s innocent partner should he not return the money, he also kills the partner. He kills the girlfriend with a blow-gun to ensure maximum damage: it is exclamation as desecration. Finally, after a perceived double-cross by the man who hires him, he kills him also after breaching his unbreachable security. The Indian has no psyche that we are given access to, is almost immune to pain, is as inexorable as fate, and understands himself as such.

The Road is a very different kind of book than the Border Trilogy and much more closely approximates to the scale of violence characteristic of Blood Meridian, even if at the surface level it belongs to a different genre of literature. Similar to Blood Meridian the landscape is inhuman and is conducive to the inhumane. In the case of The Road we are dealing not with inhospitable desert that has the physiognomy of chaos, but a nuclear winter in which the world has reverted to chaos. Nature is tooth and claw; the struggle for survival absolute. The dying man and his son face overwhelming odds in surviving in a landscape where one is a thing at best, and, at worst, quite literally food. In the post-apocalyptic the awful truth seems to be: eat or be eaten! Each and every human is a threat.

Since this is so, either one is absolutely alone or one aggregates into bands who testify in their murderous rage and eating habits to having gone beyond the human. Whether quick or slow in The Road killing is savagely intimate because it is by hand. Of course—and here McCarthy goes decisively beyond Blood Meridian—the reason why violence is once again so intimate is that technologies of mass destruction have ceased to exist either because of earth’s chance meeting with an comet or asteroid or due to the use of the nuclear weapons. McCarthy once again leaves us in the dark regarding causation. If the Judge had an unparalleled will to destruction, he did not have the means to destroy the world. The truth of now is that we do not need to exalt in the will to destruction like a Nietzsche gone sadly wrong. We simply need to have a trace of it as we continue our sleepwalking.

I return for a second time to Weil and to a second stitching with McCarthy’s classic text and the novels that it looms over, convinced that it bears on the question I broached at the very beginning of the essay: is McCarthy pornographer of violence or merely its unveiler? In her remarkable essay on the Iliad Weil brilliantly suggests that for the reader, as well as for Achilles, Patroclus provides a point of view other than the economy of violence. He has a sense of natural rightness and limit that relativizes the violence neither the Greeks nor the Trojans can contain. From within the economy of violence in which he participates he points to a beyond. Although Weil routinely reads Greek myth in terms of the revelation of Christianity, she does not do so here. And though this does not prevent us from drawing lines of connection between Patroclus and Christ, the fact that Weil does not helps, rather than hinders, us deepen the connection between her and McCarthy. If there are in Blood Meridian figures of resistance to perpetual violence, then we are speaking about Tobin and also the “kid” whom he has taken under his wing. Though both are vicious, and both practically persuaded that the world is unalterable, they refuse to validate the violence they enact, thereby gaining the adamantine enmity of the Judge who tolerates no dissent.

Their “no” is a highly qualified one which cannot be made into a norm, since they are neither prepared to acknowledge a peace prior nor posterior to violence perpetual. One could think of the Border Trilogy as providing increasing instances of “no” and No Country for Old Men and The Road figuring different intensities of “no” lodged in individual figures. In the case of the former novel, one recalls the figure of the sheriff who though he has grown used to the veniality of evil is appalled to discover in the case of the Indian that evil’s logic is transgressive and without limit. And, there is finally, the pair of father and son traveling the desolate highways and byways of a post-apocalyptic world in The Road. As a pair, they are inexplicably human, and for the dying father the son is the hope, or rather hope against hope, of a future that is not the future of cannibalism. For McCarthy it is not clear that we have found the language in which to express an end to violence without end. It does seem clear enough, however, that Christianity supplies neither its grammar nor its vocabulary.

  1. Featured Image: Frederic Remington, What an Unbranded Cow Has Cost, 1895; Source: Wikimedia, PD-Old-100.


Cyril O'Regan

Cyril O'Regan is the Catherine F. Huisking Chair in Theology at the University of Notre Dame. His latest book is the first installment of a multi-volume intellectual history of Gnosticism in modernity, The Anatomy of Misremembering, Volume 1: Hegel.

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