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'The Entropic Sublime in Pynchon’s "The Crying of Lot 49"' / Steven, Vine

Interdisciplinary Literary Studies: A Journal of Criticism and Theory, Volume: 13, Issue: 1-2, Pages: 160 - 177

Swansea University Author: Steven, Vine

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Abstract

Thomas Pynchon’s 'The Crying of Lot 49' (1965) is about the possible transformation of the social order by the disenfranchised, and is an allegory of the domination of ‘postmodern’ or consumer society by corporate capital. The article reads Pynchon’s text in terms of the debate between Jea...

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Published in: Interdisciplinary Literary Studies: A Journal of Criticism and Theory
ISSN: 1524-8429
Published: Pennnsylvania Penn State University Press 2011
Online Access: Check full text

URI: https://cronfa.swan.ac.uk/Record/cronfa11194
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Abstract: Thomas Pynchon’s 'The Crying of Lot 49' (1965) is about the possible transformation of the social order by the disenfranchised, and is an allegory of the domination of ‘postmodern’ or consumer society by corporate capital. The article reads Pynchon’s text in terms of the debate between Jean-François Lyotard and Frederic Jameson over the politics of the postmodern sublime. For Jameson, the subversive energies of modernism – in which the dominant social order represented by bourgeois culture is contested by the scandalous idioms of a dissident art – have been extinguished and incorporated by a postmodernist culture that has turned dissent and scandal into one more style, and transformed parody into pastiche. Jameson uses the language of the Burkean sublime – terror, astonishment, diminishment – to characterise the grasp of postmodern social life by global or multinational capital, a grasp that incorporates dissent and difference into itself and neutralizes the possibility of resistance. While Jameson describes late or postmodern capital in terms of sublime disempowerment, Lyotard uses the sublime as a figure of social dissensus and heterogeneity - and the article employs their contrasting versions of the sublime to read the divided political meaning of the ‘Tristero System’ in Pynchon’s text (an underground postal network that spans the ideological difference between assimilation and subversion). It argues that ‘Tristero’ can be read in terms of Lyotard’s sublime of the ‘event,’ and in terms of a postmodern temporality.
Keywords: Pynchon, entropy, the sublime, postmodernism
College: College of Arts and Humanities
Issue: 1-2
Start Page: 160
End Page: 177