A Screaming. . .
Pynchon Criticism

Mason & Dixon

Pynchon's most recent work is a wonderfully complex epic, a wilderness inviting a host of mappings, approaches, and interpretations. So far only two major books have been published regarding Mason & Dixon, but as there's likely to be more, we thought the novel deserved it's very own page.

Pynchon and Mason & Dixon

Brooke Horvath & Irving Malin, editors

University of Delaware Press, 2000, ISBN 0874137209; Hardcover, $39.50. [Browse/Order]

One of the first serious collections of scholarship on Mason & Dixon, this book contains eleven essays on Pynchon's epic text, narrative style, and historical resources. A full Spermatikos Logos review will be forthcoming; but for now, we will reprint the jacket blurb:

For Thomas Pynchon, history has been a conspiracy of warring factions whose business is trade and death and whose most ominously magic-haunted weapons include science and technology. Throughout history, those in power have conjured nightmares while simultaneously denying what everywhere percolates behind and beyond them: ghostly signs and wonders, mystery and madness, sinister machinations. Asking who or what makes history, how and towards what ends, Mason & Dixon is the novel Pynchon's readers have been waiting for since Gravity's Rainbow shattered the literary calm almost a quarter-century ago.
This volume gathers eleven essays by some of today's most prominent critics. While orienting readers new to Pynchon, the essays also prepare the way for further discussion, locating Mason & Dixon within the context of Pynchon's earlier work and of contemporary American fiction to dilineate what Brian McHale terms the "poetics of Pynchon-space." For McHale, Pynchon's America is always a subjunctive space of wish and desire": the novel that Irving Malin, closely reading the intricate wordplay of the opening paragraph, deems uncertain "counterhistory."
For Arthur Saltzman, Donald J. Greiner, and David Seed, the novel's import resides in the line Charles Mason and Jeremiah Dixon charted through the American wilderness -- a symbol, says Saltzman, of the Enlightenment's belief in a divinely sanctioned universe, which Pynchon reveals to be a "clockwork universe" of infinite peril. For Greiner, such impositions of order upon "pristine complexity" helped shatter the ideals upon which America was founded. For Seed, the Line represents an imperialist politics indifferent to all causualities left in its wake.
Victor Strandberg takes exception to Pynchon's subversive reading of western history, attributing it to his "hippie" rebellion "against tradition, convention, and all forms of social hierarchy." Joseph Dewey finds the novel looking East to reveal not only traces of a Beat-countercultural inheritance but a spiritual alternative to the secular nightmare the novel otherwise depicts. Bernard Duyfhuizen argues that the narrative instability serves here to question the authority and reliability of those who give history its meaning and shape.
David Foreman examines those historical documents Pynchon may have used in researching his story, and concludes that Pynchon wishes us to see history as inevitably " a construction." Jeff Baker likewise examines the factual accuracy of Mason & Dixon to assess Pynchon's conviction that revolutionary rhetoric was a "smokescreen" for the economic woes of a colonial elite. Finally, Thomas H. Schaub explores how the novel reveals Pynchon's politcs dimisnished to a "forgiving pastoralism."
This foray into Mason & Dixon concludes with Clifford S. Mead's bibliography of all material published to date about the novel.


Brooke Horvath

Foresgadowing the Text
Irving Malin

Mason & Dixon in the Zone, or, a Brief Poetics of Pynchon-Space
Brian McHale

"Cranks of Ev'ry Radius": Romancing the Line in Mason & Dixon
Arthur Saltzman

Thomas Pynchon and the Fault Lines of America
Donald J. Greiner

Mapping the Course of Empire in the New World
David Seed

Dimming the Enlightenment: Thomas Pynchon's Mason & Dixon
Victor Strandberg

The Sound of One Man Mapping: Wicks Cherrrycoke and the Eastern (Re)Solution
Joseph Dewey

Reading at the "Crease of Credulity"
Bernard Duyfhuizen

Historical Documents Relating to Mason & Dixon
David Foreman

Plucking the American Albatross: Pynchon's Irrealism in Mason & Dixon
Jeff Baker

Plot, Ideology, and Compassion in Mason & Dixon
Thomas H. Schaub

Mason & Dixon Bibliography
Clifford S. Mead

Mason & Dixon & Pynchon

Charles Clerc

University Press of America, 2000, ISBN 0761817921; Hardcover, $26.50. [Browse/Order]

We are currently researching more about this book. If you would like to submit a review or synopsis of this work, please contact us! From the Publisher:

Charles Clerc's Mason & Dixon & Pynchon is the first book-length critical study of Thomas Pynchon's latest novel. Clerc's study approaches the novel from a variety of perspectives, including historical and literary. Substantial attention is paid to the historical time period of Mason & Dixon. A survey of over 50 critical responses to the book and excerpts from the journal of Mason and Dixon are also included.

Go To:

Criticism Main Page -- Returns you to the Main Criticism page and the Quick Reference Card of titles.

General Criticism -- Criticism, essays, and analyses about Pynchon's writing in general.

Shorter Works -- Guides and criticism for V., The Crying of Lot 49, and Vineland.

Gravity's Rainbow -- Guides and criticism pertaining to Gravity's Rainbow.

Critical Bibliography -- Dr Larry Daw's hyperlinked bibliography of selected Pynchon criticism, including books, journals and newspapers.

--Allen B. Ruch
11 December 2002

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