“Falling into the sky”: gravity and levity in Pynchon’s Mason & Dixon

Haynes, Douglas (2019) “Falling into the sky”: gravity and levity in Pynchon’s Mason & Dixon. Space and Culture. ISSN 1206-3312 (Accepted)

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Abstract

My argument follows geographer Gunnar Olsson when he asks “What is geography if it is not the drawing and interpreting of a line? And what is the drawing of a line if it is not also the creation of new objects?” Using Thomas Pynchon’s 1997 novel Mason & Dixon about the drawing of the Mason-Dixon line, I explore how the mapmaker’s productive power is never merely reflective but generative too, constructing a world as much as representing one. I question the consequent relation between “above and below,” drawing on Farinelli’s insight that critique of such constructions must recognise an antagonistic humour in the production of maps and territories. Pynchon’s novel, I argue, is exemplary in the wit with which it pits the anomalous, strange and contingent phenomena of the below against the homogenising, categorising power of above. His approach helps us understand the dark heart of Enlightenment cartography and society.

Item Type: Article
Additional Information: This is part of a special issue called "Above: Degrees of Elevation" due to be published in hard copy in Jan 2020.
Keywords: Pynchon; cartography; Enlightenment; humour; space; slavery; Learnèd English Dog; gravity; levity
Schools and Departments: School of English > English
Research Centres and Groups: Sussex Centre for American Studies
Subjects: B Philosophy. Psychology. Religion > B Philosophy (General) > B0105 Special topics, A-Z > B0105.H9 Humour
B Philosophy. Psychology. Religion > BF Psychology > BF0511 Affection. Feeling. Emotion
E History America > E151 United States (General) > E0186 Colonial history (1607-1775)
E History America > E151 United States (General)
G Geography. Anthropology. Recreation > GA Mathematical geography. Cartography > GA101 Cartography > GA125 Map drawing, modeling, printing, reading, etc.
P Language and Literature > PS American literature > PS0360 Prose
P Language and Literature > PS American literature > PS0430 Wit and humour. Satire
P Language and Literature > PS American literature > PS0700 Individual authors > PS3550 1961-2000
P Language and Literature > PS American literature > PS0700 Individual authors > PS3550 1961-2000 > PS3566.Y55 Pynchon, Thomas
Depositing User: Douglas Haynes
Date Deposited: 01 Aug 2019 10:14
Last Modified: 01 Aug 2019 10:15
URI: http://sro.sussex.ac.uk/id/eprint/85234

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