Monday, March 19, 2007

Easter 2007

This term we will be reading the writings of Thomas Pynchon. Our discussions will focus on selected passages, detailed below, but if you have time then feel free to read more! Photocopied reading packs are available in the Whipple Library box file, and the books themselves are also held in many college and university libraries.

We meet on Mondays from 7.30-9pm in the upstairs seminar room of Darwin College: please note the slightly irregular scheduling this term to avoid bank holidays.

All are welcome!

30th April
Gravity's Rainbow (1973) London: Vintage, 2002, pp. 397-433

14th May
Against the Day (2006) London: Jonathan Cape, pp. 57-80

21st May
'Entropy', in Slow Learner (1984) Boston: Little, Brown, pp. 79-98

4th June
Mason & Dixon (1997) London: Jonathan Cape, pp. 116-24; 190-8

Reports of our meetings as well as links to further resources for each session will be posted on this blog - so remember to keep checking for updates!

1 comment:

Simon de Bourcier said...

Thomas Pynchon will be 70 on the 8 May this year. Beyond that not much is known about his life, because he guards his privacy fiercely. What we do know is that he is the author of six extraordinary, erudite, funny novels: V.(1963), The Crying of Lot 49(1966), Gravity's Rainbow(1973), Vineland(1990), Mason & Dixon(1997), and Against the Day(2006). He is also an astute literary critic, as evidenced by his recent introduction to Penguin's Orwell Centenary Edition of Nineteen Eighty-Four.
Pynchon's novels combine staggering amounts of well-researched information about science, technology and history, yet at the same time they formally rebel against all forms of narrative as complicit in the bureaucracies of control. The most unlikely flights of invention - an eighteenth century mechanical shitting duck, George Washington as a pot-smoker - turn out to be the ones grounded in historical fact.
His 1970s masterpiece Gravity's Rainbow describes the birth of the military industrial complex from the ashes of the Second World War through the mock-heroic meanderings of an American intelligence officer through Europe. Tyrone Slothrop is under close observation by a shadowy 'They' who are particularly interested in the fact that each German V2 Rocket landing on London seems to fall on the exact spot where Slothrop has jut got laid.
Mason & Dixon purports to be the story of the two English surveyors who, on the brink of US independence, surveyed a line of latitude to be a boundary between the colonial fiefdoms of the Penns and the Calverts, soon to become the states of Pennsylvania and Maryland. The boundary later became the border between North and South during the Civil War, the Mason-Dixon line - hence the term Dixieland for the South - though the hyphenated 'Mason-Dixon' never appears in the book. It is replaced in its title by an extravagant ampercand suggesting the tall, digressive tale within.
Scientific themes play a large part in Against the Day: it is in part an elegy for the Aether, the mysterious medium through which waves of light were once imagined to propagate, and which, Pynchon suggests, may yet bare up flights of the imagination.