International conference on American author Cormac McCarthy

Guadalupe Mountains  

The role of borders and landscape in the works of treasured American author Cormac McCarthy will be contrasted with the way geographical space is used in Australian literature at a University of Western Sydney conference.

The works of Cormac McCarthy blend mysticism and mythology and cover nearly two hundred years of southern and south-western American history. He has won the Pulitzer Prize for The Road, and his 2005 novel No Country for Old Men was adapted as a 2007 film which won four Academy Awards.

Taking into consideration Cormac McCarthy's interest in place and displacement, the theme of this conference, organised by the UWS Writing and Society Research Centre, is Borders and Landscapes. Given that the conference focuses on an American author but is taking place in Australia, the organisers are particularly interested in the geographical spaces of the two countries as represented in literature.

"The conference is the first of its kind to be hosted in Australia," says Conference Convenor Lou Jillet.

"Cormac McCarthy's work is attracting an increasing number of critics and fans, and the international and the interdisciplinary nature of the conference promises to broaden the network of McCarthy scholarship."

Keynote speeches at the conference include:

  • Rick Wallach, Senior Editor of the Cormac McCarthy Society's Casebook Series. At first glance Patrick White and Cormac McCarthy wouldn't seem to have much in common. Yet both novelists share a penchant for the dark side of both human and wild nature, and have a similar vision of the natural world and man's place – or isolation – within it. Wallach will explore the psychological and rhetorical techniques utilized by both White and McCarthy to "get inside" the world at large and explore its attraction and the influence it exerts upon their characters.
  • Assistant Professor Stacey Peebles, Centre College, Kentucky. Vice President of The Cormac McCarthy Society and editor of The Cormac McCarthy Journal.  Cormac McCarthy has a longstanding interest in film adaptations of his work dating back to at least 1967, writing for the screen and stage, and collaborating with others for many of those projects.  Just as his stories often follow characters moving through new environments, McCarthy has never shied from working in different formats, and the story of his creative life is one that must include his longstanding interest in performance.
  • The conference will also feature the opening of an artistic installation featuring the work of painter and filmmaker Peter Josyph. His installation, The Lost Blood Meridian Notebook, improvises around the theme of the notebook as an archive, a journal, and ultimately a form of expression that is also a conversation with oneself. Unlike the pages of most notebooks, the series has been painted on some of the best-made paper in the world from paper mills in Canada, France, and Mexico, most of it handmade and no longer available.
  • Dr Martin Edmond, a Postdoctoral Fellow with the UWS Writing & Society Research Centre will present an autobiographical account of his experience of McCarthy's Appalachian and South-Western landscapes.In 1979, Dr Martin Edmond set out on a cross-country tour of the United States with his group Red Mole, and lingered in New Mexico before driving on to California. His talk will synchronize those experiences, in space and time, with two Cormac McCarthy works, Suttree and Blood Meridian.

The conference will highlight various approaches to the theme of landscapes and borders, including:

  • Comparisons to the treatment of landscape in Australian fiction by writers like Patrick White, Tim Winton and Randolph Stow
  • The role of exploration in McCarthy's novels, including various approaches to cartography, topography, psychogeography, and methods of navigation
  • Political, philosophical and eco-critical responses to the post-apocalyptic landscape in novels such as The Road, and the confrontation between technology and nature in McCarthy's works.


22 June 2014

Mark Smith, Senior Media Officer 

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