60s/70s Head Trip: Two or Three Novels by Thomas Pynchon (LIT4002.01)

Paul La Farge

In this class we’ll do a careful reading of two fairly complicated novels by Thomas Pynchon: The Crying of Lot 49 (short) and Gravity’s Rainbow (long). If there’s time, we might squeeze in Vineland as a coda. We will not read the letters of Wanda Tinasky, unless obliged to do so by unforeseen circumstances.

Pynchon has made his biography an enigma, and his novels are full of enigmas, puzzles, conspiracy theories, bad puns, references to comic books and popular music, equations, and other head-bending material. We’ll go slowly through the books, making extensive use of histories and exegeses to track down Pynchon’s many references; and we’ll use this slow reading to assemble as best we can a picture of what Pynchon was up to in these rich but quite strange books.


Learning Outcomes:
-- To read two major novels by Thomas Pynchon, at a speed which allows us to unpack them in some detail, and to follow their many references to the extent that doing so helps us understand the novel.
-- We’ll practice our slow reading, and also reading with reference materials handy.
-- We’ll consider Pynchon’s persona and his work in the context of US culture and politics in the 1960s and 70s.
-- We’ll write critical and creative responses to Pynchon’s work.


Delivery Method: Fully in-person
Prerequisites: Interested students should submit a brief (1-2 paragraph) statement of interest, and a 5pp. writing sample in any genre(s).
Course Level: 4000-level
Credits: 4
T/F 10:30AM - 12:20PM (Full-term)
Maximum Enrollment: 15
Course Frequency: One time only

Categories: All courses , Literature , Fully In-Person
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