Electronic Theses and Dissertations


Brett Lewis



Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy



Committee Chair

Terrence Tucker

Committee Member

Wiliam Duffy

Committee Member

Theron Britt

Committee Member

Scott Sundvall


McCarthy’s Appalachian novels in particular, beginning with his first novel The Orchard Keeper in 1965, show the outline of biblicality, a concept which entails the use of religious imagery, the employment of biblical language, the interplay between religious and secular elements, the profound impact of Appalachian landscapes, along with the thematic exploration of faith, morality, and the human condition. Outer Dark (1968), Child of God (1972), Suttree (1979), and The Road (2005), expound, in more detail, upon these ideas through the use of the themes of darkness, light, and objects of divinity, outsiders, and suicide. McCarthy’s Appalachian novels, showcase biblicality as filtered through the King James Bible, and notable authors of the Southern Gothic genre, and their interplay with his inspirations from antiquity. This research illuminates how Southern and Appalachian Gothic literature engages with the biblical tradition, shapes our understanding of the region’s history and culture, and invites readers to grapple with timeless questions of faith, morality, social justice, and the complexities of the human experience. For nearly six decades, Cormac McCarthy has been experimenting with, in prose, topics involving religion, science, and the mysteries of life, none of which he has been able to fully resolve. Employing the 'via negativa' as a lens for theological exploration, Cormac McCarthy often seeks to uncover the divine in its absence. McCarthy's apophatic approach to theology is exemplified in his exploration of biblical passages and concepts within his East Tennessee novels, throughout which he explores the darkest and most challenging aspects of human life. McCarthy reveals that even in life’s bleakest and most desolate moments, there exists an underlying theme of light and human agency, which characters either tap into or are given as a sort of gift from the beyond. This recurring motif not only emphasizes the depth of McCarthy's theological inquiry but also highlights the resilience of the human spirit in the face of lack and adversity. McCarthy, throughout these works, sheds light on the hidden connections between the divine and the mundane and reveals goodness and its possibilities through its absence.


Data is provided by the student

Library Comment

Dissertation or thesis originally submitted to ProQuest.


Open Access