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The arc and the circle: linearity and return in the novels of Thomas Pynchon

Mortlock, John (1990) The arc and the circle: linearity and return in the novels of Thomas Pynchon. Masters thesis, Durham University.



This thesis considers the opposing, but integrally connected themes of linearity and return as a starting point for a discussion of the novels of Thomas Pynchon, from The Crying of Lot 49 to his most recent novel Vineland (1990).The recurrence of these two basic tenets in his fiction are indicative of a preoccupation with the conflicts that characterize a civilization built upon the Cartesian basis of subject/object duality. These conflicts are overseen in Pynchon's writing by a cyclical, unified cosmos against which the accelerating evils of technology and industrialization are representative of a doomed impulse to achieve transcendence in material terms. Pynchon's writing emphasizes the ever- balancing nature of the universal forces that lie behind this complex scenario, and places the current global situation of ecological, sociological and technological crises inside a larger recurring whole. The potential for transcendence exists in Pynchon's fictive world, albeit tentatively so, but whatever universal absolute is in existence, it cannot be approached by premeditated design, and respect for a balanced, regenerative universe is at least suggested as the most immediate object for our attention. These are most conspicuously the concerns present in Gravity’s Rainbow and Vineland. Chapter One examines the idea in less complex form in The Crying of Lot 49, and focuses on Pynchon's use of music as metaphor and supporting device in his delineation of the difficult boundaries of the Cartesian dichotomy. Chapters Two to Six consider the ideas as they are present in Gravity's Rainbow, Chapter Four using the findings of LSD research to suggest a possible framework for some of the novel’s most difficult aspects. Chapter Seven serves as both a consideration of Vineland and as a conclusion to this study, since Pynchon's latest novel restates the fundamental preoccupations of his previous writing in a fresh and vividly contemporary form.

Item Type:Thesis (Masters)
Award:Master of Arts
Faculty and Department:Faculty of Arts and Humanities > English Studies, Department of
Thesis Date:1990
Copyright:Copyright of this thesis is held by the author
Deposited On:18 Dec 2012 11:59

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