A "little parenthesis of light": Pynchon and the counterculture

Freer, Joanna Elizabeth (2012) A "little parenthesis of light": Pynchon and the counterculture. Doctoral thesis (PhD), University of Sussex.

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Abstract

This thesis examines the countercultural politics expressed within the work of the American
novelist Thomas Pynchon, contributing to critical work already published on the subject of
Pynchon’s politics, in which there has been a recent upsurge of interest. Expressions of
sympathy with anarchist and anti-Capitalist principles discerned in Pynchon’s work are
explored in their connection with the author’s experience of particular practices and
philosophies of the 1960s counterculture. Furthermore, the ongoing significance of sixties
politics in Pynchon’s more recent production is demonstrated as ideological connections
between earlier and later novels are traced.

In Slow Learner Pynchon professed admiration for the motive energy of Beat literature, so
influential on the formation of the counterculture. With particular focus on Jack Kerouac’s
On the Road, chapter one demonstrates the impact of the Beat movement, and its limits, in
Pynchon’s early novels. New Left thought and tactics as manifested across the decade
provide the focus of the second chapter, which engages primarily with Gravity’s Rainbow’s
depiction of Communist revolutionaries in Weimar-era Germany. The following chapter
considers the role of psychedelic experience and the philosophies of Timothy Leary in
Pynchon’s The Crying of Lot 49 and Against the Day, arguing that the fantastical has a
concrete political role in Pynchon’s novels. Black Power, and specifically the political
theory of the Black Panther Party, is the subject of chapter four. Gravity’s Rainbow’s
framing of Huey P. Newton’s concept of “revolutionary suicide” is central to an analysis
which offers insights into the novel’s perspectives on the use of violence and on leadership
in revolutionary groups. The final chapter investigates the dynamics of Pynchon’s
ambivalent engagement with the Women’s Movement. Betty Friedan’s The Feminine
Mystique is put forward as an important intertext for The Crying of Lot 49, while Vineland
is examined in the context of radical feminism.

Item Type: Thesis (Doctoral)
Schools and Departments: School of History, Art History and Philosophy > American Studies
Subjects: P Language and Literature > PS American literature > PS0700 Individual authors > PS3550 1961-2000 > PS3566.Y55 Pynchon, Thomas
Depositing User: Library Cataloguing
Date Deposited: 06 Dec 2012 08:32
Last Modified: 12 Oct 2015 11:57
URI: http://sro.sussex.ac.uk/id/eprint/43092

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