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2015 | 5 | 62-78
Article title

The Limits of Language as the Limits of the World: Cormac McCarthy’s and David Markson’s Post-Apocalyptic Novels

Content
Title variants
Languages of publication
EN
Abstracts
EN
The article examines the correlation between the world and the word in two novels which engage with a post-apocalyptic scenario: David Markson’s Wittgenstein’s Mistress (1988) and Cormac McCarthy’s The Road (2006). Shifting the focus from the very event of catastrophe to the notion of survival through memory and storytelling, both novels problematize the strained relationship between language and reality in an increasingly diminished and dehumanized world. My aim is to investigate the limits of language as well as its capacity to withstand the chaos, loss, trauma, and death that follow the apocalypse. The issues to be considered include the influence of external experience on forms of communication, the role of central metaphors (the archive and the museum in Markson’s novel; cinders and the road in McCarthy’s) and their relation to the form of both novels, as well as the word’s (in)capacity to preserve human values and hopes. Both novels will be discussed as deconstructionist projects in which language becomes a habitat at once impossible and life-preserving: in Wittgenstein’s Mistress it plays the role of both home and prison, whereas in The Road it functions as messianic discourse which simultaneously carries, propels and extinguishes the human hope for a transcendental reality beyond the post-apocalyptic emptiness and doubt.
Keywords
Year
Volume
5
Pages
62-78
Physical description
Dates
published
2015-11-01
online
2015-11-17
Contributors
  • Adam Mickiewicz University, Poznań
References
  • Cetinić, Marija. “‘Fragile Pages of Grey Ashes’: Inoperative Archives in Dubravka Ugresić’s The Museum of Unconditional Surrender and David Markson’s Wittgenstein’s Mistress.” European Journal of English Studies 14.1 (2010): 76-87. Print.[WoS]
  • Derrida, Jacques. The Archive Fever: A Freudian Impression. Trans. Eric Prenowitz. Chicago: Chicago UP, 1996. Print.
  • ---. Cinders. Trans. Ned Lukacher. Minneapolis: U of Minnesota P, 2014. Print.
  • ---. “On a Newly Risen Apocalyptic Tone in Philosophy.” Raising the Tone of Philosophy: Late Essays by Immanuel Kant, Transformative Critique by Jacques Derrida. Ed. Peter Fenves. Baltimore: Johns Hopkins UP, 1998. 119-68. Print.
  • ---. The Post Card: From Socrates to Freud and Beyond. Trans. Alan Bass. Chicago: Chicago UP, 1987. Print.
  • ---. Specters of Marx: The State of the Debt, the Work of Mourning, and The New International. Trans. Peggy Kamuf. New York: Routledge, 1994. Print.
  • Dewey, Joseph. In a Dark Time: The Apocalyptic Temper in the American Novel of the Nuclear Age. West Lafayette: Purdue UP, 1990. Print.
  • Frye, Steven. Understanding Cormac McCarthy. Columbia: U of South Carolina P, 2009. Print.
  • Grace, Sherrill E. “Messages: Reading Wittgenstein’s Mistress.” Review of Contemporary Fiction 10.2 (1990): 207-17. Print.
  • Kunsa, Ashley. “‘Maps of the World in Its Becoming’: Post-Apocalyptic Naming in Cormac McCarthy’s The Road.” Journals of Modern Literature 33.1 (2009): 57-74. Print.
  • Lee, Sue-Im. The Body of Individuals: The Paradox of Community in Contemporary Fiction. Columbus: Ohio State UP, 2009. Print.
  • McCarthy, Cormac. The Road. New York: Vintage, 2006. Print.
  • Markson, David. Wittgenstein’s Mistress. Champaign: Dalkey Archive P, 1988. Print.
  • Rosen, Elizabeth K. Apocalyptic Transformation: Apocalypse and the Postmodern Imagination. Plymouth: Lexington, 2008. Print.
  • Snyder, Katherine V. “‘Time to Go’: The Post-Apocalyptic and the Post- Traumatic in Margaret Atwood’s Oryx and Crake.” Studies in the Novel 43.4 (2011): 470-89. Print.
  • Wallace, David Foster. “The Empty Plenum: David Markson’s Wittgenstein’s Mistress.” Review of Contemporary Fiction 10.2 (1990): 217-32. Print.
  • Wittgenstein, Ludwig. Philosophical Investigations. Trans. G. E. Anscomb. Oxford: Blackwell, 1972. Print.
  • ---. Tractatus Logico-Philosophicus. Trans. C. K. Ogden. New York: Routledge & Kegan Paul, 1981. Print.
Document Type
Publication order reference
Identifiers
YADDA identifier
bwmeta1.element.hdl_11089_15023
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