The Quest for the Mechanical Muse: Thomas Pynchon and Science

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Title: The Quest for the Mechanical Muse: Thomas Pynchon and Science
Author: Schetzina, Cathy Anne
Advisors: John J. Kessel, Committee Member
Nick Halpern, Committee Chair
John D. Morillo, Committee Member
Abstract: This thesis explores Thomas Pynchon's philosophy of science as evidenced by the thematic and literary role of science in Gravity's Rainbow and Mason & Dixon. His treatment of science in these novels amounts to a call for intellectual revolution on a grand scale, as Pynchon takes aim at the Western world's all-pervasive faith in the scientific enterprise, made dominant during the Enlightenment, which he associates with a blind reliance on binary oppositions, belief in cause-and-effect and faith in reason. Pynchon associates this cultural construction, which I refer to throughout the thesis as Science, with a range of abstract systems that, when imposed upon humanity, prove to be both oppressive and destructive. In Gravity's Rainbow, Pynchon depicts the destruction that has resulted from the use of science, creates a symbolic order that challenges the dominance of Science and urges traversal of the boundaries it dictates and subversion of the binary oppositions that characterize it. Mason & Dixon neatly enriches the symbolic order created in Gravity's Rainbow, having at its center an iconic representation of the Enlightenment enterprise and that of Science. Taken together, the novels provide both a critique and an apologia of the trajectory of science in the twentieth century, along with a symbolically articulated plea for revolution.
Date: 2004-11-23
Degree: MA
Discipline: English

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