Thomas Pynchon: Reading from the Margins

Thomas Pynchon: Reading from the Margins

Thomas Pynchon: Reading from the Margins

Thomas Pynchon: Reading from the Margins

Synopsis

Thomas Pynchon: Reading from the Margins is a collection of essays by various academics looking at how identity is shaped, gendered, and contested throughout Pynchon's work. By exploring sociological, anthropological, literary, and political dimensions, the contributors revise important ideas in the debate over individualism using political and feminist theory and examine the different ways in which their writings embody, engage, and critique the official narratives generated by America's culture. The first half of the book is a site for the mutually constitutive interaction between discourses about the body and the materiality of specific bodies. These essays serve as the locus for thinking differently about both feminist histories and feminist futures, and the political aims of cultural criticisms. The second half of the book questions the context and pretext of political ideas of nationhood, political states, and political parties, the economic divisions of fiscal and monetary policies, and the sociological concepts of societies, tribes, and families. The papers question the forces of monopoly to exclude and obscure the underside of the American dream, the degradation of dreams, and what dreams become. With its interdisciplinary approach, Thomas Pynchon, will appeal to students and scholars of American literature, culture, gender studies, sociology, and politics.

Excerpt

Thomas Pynchon: Reading From the Margins is a product and a reflection of an extraordinary event—the International Pynchon Week conferences held in Antwerp and London in June 1998. What became International Pynchon Week began with Luc Herman's plans for a two-day conference at the University of Antwerp to mark the twenty-fifth anniversary of the publication of Pynchon's novel Gravity's Rainbow. International Pynchon Week was born when Eric Weinstein suggested a three-day companion conference at the University of London to discuss the rest of Pynchon's fiction. I had the pleasure of serving on the IPW paper-selection committee, which chose some sixty papers for presentation at the two conferences.

International Pynchon Week brought together many long-established Pynchon scholars and many of the most promising up-and-comers in the field, from North America, Europe, and beyond. A stimulating and fruitful experience for presenters and auditors alike (if also a somewhat grueling one by the end of the twelve-plus–hour last day in London), it sustained as consistently high a level of scholarship as I ever hope to witness. Never mind that the London conference was held in a gloomy subbasement of King's College. (Some would say its being held underground was entirely appropriate.) If that very lecture theater was not where James Clerk Maxwell stood when he taught at King's in the 1860s, Maxwell's portrait presided over the lobby above. And now, the editor Niran Abbas has taken a lesson from Maxwell's Demon in sorting out some of the hottest papers from the London conference for this volume. (The Antwerp proceedings have already been published as Pynchon Notes 42–43, guest-edited by Luc Herman.)

Pynchon scholarship has a necessarily short history, but an intense one. In 1992, Michael Bérubé observed that Pynchon was the subject of more books and articles than almost any other contemporary American fiction-writer. Pynchon, Bérubé pointed out, was at the center of the canon despite the antiestablishment claims his critics often made for him—and implicitly for themselves. Since the first essays in the mid 1960s and the first book-length study in 1974, many hundreds of articles and chapters, scores of theses and dissertations, at least sixty books, essay collections and special issues of journals, a . . .

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