My thesis examines the discourse of Mexico in the works of three twentieth-century American authors-Cormac McCarthy, Jack Kerouac, and Katherine Anne Porter-in order to analyze representations of Otherness in modernism and postmodernism. I seek to destabilize the dividing line between these periods as well as to show how representation in postmodernity has become more problematic due in large part to the proliferation of consumer culture. Though the Mexico that McCarthy employs in Blood Meridian and the Border Trilogy (All the Pretty Horses, The Crossing, and Cities of the Plain) escapes many stereotypes, his Mexico is merely a staging ground that he uses to examine postmodern questions of philosophy while deconstructing myths such as the Old West and Manifest Destiny and reflecting on the ramifications of World War II. Therefore, McCarthy elides Mexico by using its Otherness as a mirror that enables reflection on the Self. Kerouac too is interested in using Mexico to solve U.S. problems. In On the Road, Kerouac's fictional counterpart, Sal Paradise, searches for the authenticity missing from middle-class American life by ultimately turning to the "authentic" Mexico. Though he is able to distinguish between simulations and reality in his own cultural context, once south of the border Sal misrecognizes what is a hypperreal Mexico for supreme authenticity. By contrast, when Katherine Anne Porter crosses the border, she is quick to identify corruption and revolutionary failure in Mexico. When pieces such as "Xochimilco" and "María Concepción" are placed alongside that of the work of Diego Rivera, a leader in the Mexican muralist movement, it becomes clear that Porter essentializes her Mexican subjects with the specific political goal in mind of furthering the revolution. Additionally, by crossing the generic lines separating fiction and non-fiction, Porter approximates what could be called a postmodern form of ethnography. Yet all of her representational strategies are tempered, especially in her last Mexican story, Hacienda, by an awareness that representations of Other cannot be other than flawed.
College and Department
BYU ScholarsArchive Citation
Ligairi, Rachel Mae, "The Familiar Foreign Country: Reading Mexico in Cormac McCarthy, Jack Kerouac, and Katherine Anne Porter" (2006). All Theses and Dissertations. 935.
Mexico, Cormac McCarthy, Blood Meridian, All the Pretty Horses, The Crossing, Cities of the Plain, The Border Trilogy, Jack Kerouac, On the Road, Katherine Anne Porter, Modernism, Postmodernism, Representation, Other, Xochimilco, María Concepción, Diego Rivera, Mural, Hacienda