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Cormac McCarthy at home and abroad: Translation, reception, interpretation

Lynn Alison Prince, University of Massachusetts Amherst


This study is focused on the works of Cormac McCarthy and their interpretations; it also is concerned with the hermeneutical practice itself. I explore three types of interpretation performed on McCarthy's texts—scholarly essays, translations, and journalistic articles—with an eye to how critics, translators and reviewers have understood this author's work in the United States as well as in Germany and France. After presenting a panoply of interpretations by American critics interspersed with my own observations on the five McCarthy texts to be investigated ( Outer Dark, Suttree, Blood Meridian, All the Pretty Horses and The Crossing), I offer an overview of translation theory and the translator's role within that discipline. I then perform a comparative reading of the works in English, German and French, but where I expected divergent interpretations, I instead found striking similarities: the translations were remarkably close to my own understanding of McCarthy's texts; only on rare occasions did the German or French renderings suggest meanings different from those I and American scholars had found. This result led me to investigate how German and French reviewers interpreted the translated texts and here too I found overwhelming similarities between how European critics and their American counterparts seemed to understand McCarthy's works. Given the indeterminacy of language(s) and of textual meaning—tenets to which I had always adhered—this was not an outcome I anticipated. How could the Atlantic not be large enough to engender varied readings? The logical if somewhat maligned answer seemed to me to lie in authorial intention. To reassert the author's importance in the creation of a literary text is then one of the goals of this study, but while this project concludes with an argument for an intentionalist interpretation of McCarthy's singular prose, it does not erase the winding path it took to arrive at that conclusion. In the end, this paper is as much a testament to the ways in which I was forced to question and reevaluate my thinking about literary interpretation as it is a discussion of the wordsmith McCarthy.

Subject Area

Comparative literature|American literature

Recommended Citation

Prince, Lynn Alison, "Cormac McCarthy at home and abroad: Translation, reception, interpretation" (2000). Doctoral Dissertations Available from Proquest. AAI9988834.