Academic journal article Environment and Planning D: Society and Space

The Warp of the World: Geographies of Space and Time in the Border Trilogy by Cormac McCarthy

Academic journal article Environment and Planning D: Society and Space

The Warp of the World: Geographies of Space and Time in the Border Trilogy by Cormac McCarthy

Article excerpt

Abstract

This article analyses the representation of space and time in The Border Trilogy by Cormac McCarthy, through a focus on the places and geographies that constitute All the Pretty Horses, The Crossing, and Cities of the Plain. Contributing to the project of spatial history in geographical studies, the argument focuses on the relation of space to time in these works to reveal the political production of space and the politics of space as a social relation. This conceptualisation of the politics of space, viewing the spaces of geography and the past/present of history as co-formed, is revealed as significant in reconsidering the novels that constitute The Border Trilogy. From the uneven spatio-temporal development of the Mexican Revolution in All the Pretty Horses, to the spatial histories of The Crossing, to the urban spaces linking El Paso and Ciudad Juarez in Cities of the Plain, space is revealed as a constituent part of history in these works. Overall, a consideration of the integrations of space and time, from the perspective of spatial history, is crucial to rethinking the role of borders and landscapes in these works by Cormac McCarthy.

Keywords

Spatial history, Henri Lefebvre, rhythmanalysis, space and time, literary geography, Cormac McCarthy

**********

This article analyses the representation of space and time in The Border Trilogy by Cormac McCarthy through a focus on the geographies that constitute All the Pretty Horses, The Crossing, and Cities of the Plain. (1) My contention is that the extant literature commenting on The Border Trilogy has insufficiently attended to the co-implicated spatio-temporal aspects of the novels. Indeed, there is a proclivity within commentaries to counterpose time and history to space and geography that can result in an aspatial or despatialised view of the borders and landscapes in McCarthy's border trilogy. An aspatial or despatialised viewpoint loses a geographical sensibility occluding social, political, and economic differences across space (Massey, 2005: 82). On one hand, a focus on the historical dynamic and contemporary presence of events such as the Mexican Revolution has been noted within the trilogy (see Wegner, 2000). However, in such analysis the geographical differences of uneven development become squeezed into the historical and temporal narrative connecting past and present, without exploring the relational connection to the production of space. To cite Wegner (2000: 249):

   The Mexican Revolution helps shape the ideas and actions of the
   Trilogy's protagonists and antagonists alike. Because the
   revolution and its corollary effects symbolise the historical
   complexities of the two countries McCarthy writes about, the
   history of each person and place is intricately tied to the history
   of another.

The temporal (historical) overrides the spatial (geographical) in this analysis. Similarly, where the geographical and historical are noted in McCarthy studies (e.g. Cant, 2008; Ostrom, 2014), these points either remain latent in the analysis or are overladen with an emphasis on the power of the past as memorialisation and history, still demanding a spatialised understanding of the linkages between history and geography. Amidst the welter of detail on how The Border Trilogy addresses the mythology of American culture, such work overlooks how questions of space and time come together. On the other hand, where a spatialised perspective is developed to understand the borders and landscapes of the trilogy, this is undertaken at the expense of realising issues of temporality. (2) For example, Daniel Weiss' (2014) astute tracing of the mapping and containment, demarcation and colonial appropriation enacted through spatial boundaries in McCarthy's novels is insufficient in making enough linkage to issues of temporality and how the past shapes the present. 'McCarthy's novels offer a critique of the map as a source of information and as an authoritarian account of western progress, development and historical containment' (Weiss, 2010: 73). …

Search by... Author
Show... All Results Primary Sources Peer-reviewed

Oops!

An unknown error has occurred. Please click the button below to reload the page. If the problem persists, please try again in a little while.