Subjectivity and (non)belonging: Cormac McCarthy and the Psychotic Phenomenon in Child of God

Fadwa Ben Mohamed Ben Mohamed


This paper aims to challenge and rethink the concept of belonging in terms of the subject’s relation to language and body. Child of God is Cormac McCarthy’s celebrated book which has attracted critical attention since its publication in 1973. The novel is about Lester Ballard’s growing madness which frustrates any attempt at defining subjectivity within the boundaries of language and body. Relying on the Lacanian theory of the Real and the Derridean notion of cryptology, this paper explores the psychotic phenomenon in Child of God, a phenomenon that deconstructs the concept of belonging.  In this novel, McCarthy’s main character is remarkable in the sense that he undermines the logocentric assumptions in the authority of the concept of belonging. Ballard embodies the failure to become a subject, leading to psychosis. Thus, this paper tackles two major aspects of the psychotic phenomenon. The first part deals with Ballard’s psychotic discourse which is outside language, outside the Symbolic, belonging to the order of hallucinations and delusions. Ballard is someone who is inhabited, traumatized and invaded by language. His speech does not belong to him because it is the speech of all those voices incorporated within him. It is precisely this idea which lays the ground for the second part of this paper. Ballard’s body corresponds to the Derridean crypt, a body that is totally foreign to him and, thus, it is understood in terms of the Lacanian Real. At the root of this paper is the objective of undermining the idea of the subject’s linguistic and corporeal belonging long-held by Western metaphysics by arguing that Ballard’s subjectivity is ultimately spectral and consequently, it exceeds the dialectics of body and language


Belonging - subjectivity - body - language - psychosis - the Real - the Symbolic – deconstruction.

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