The Multiple Worlds of Pynchon's Mason & Dixon

The Multiple Worlds of Pynchon's Mason & Dixon

Eighteenth-Century Contexts, Postmodern Observations

Edited by Elizabeth Jane Wall Hinds


Camden House



New essays examining the interface between 18th- and 20th-century culture both in Pynchon's novel and in the historical past.
Thomas Pynchon's 1997 novel Mason & Dixon marked a deep shift in Pynchon's career and in American letters in general. All of Pynchon's novels had been socially and politically aware, marked by social criticism and a profound questioning of American values. They have carried the labels of satire and black humor, and "Pynchonesque" has come to be associated with erudition, a playful style, anachronisms and puns -- and an interest in scientific theories, popular culture, paranoia, and the "military-industrial complex." In short, Pynchon's novels were the sine qua non of postmodernism; Mason & Dixon went further, using the same style, wit, and erudition to re-create an 18th century when "America" was being formed as both place and idea. Pynchon's focus on the creation of the Mason-Dixon Line and the governmental and scientific entities responsible for it makes a clearer statement than any of his previous novels about the slavery and imperialism at the heart of the Enlightenment, as he levels a dark and hilarious critique at this America. This volume of new essays studies the interface between 18th- and 20th-century culture both in Pynchon's novel and in the historical past. It offers fresh thinking about Pynchon's work, as the contributors take up the linkages between the 18th and 20th centuries in studies that are as concerned with culture as with the literary text itself.

Contributors: Mitchum Huehls, Brian Thill, Colin Clarke, Pedro Garcia-Caro, Dennis Lensing, Justin M. Scott Coe, Ian Copestake, Frank Palmeri.

Elizabeth Jane Wall Hinds is Professor and Chair of the English Department at SUNY Brockport.


232 pages
9x6 in
Studies in American Literature and Culture
Hardback, 9781571133182, November 2005
Paperback, 9781571134110, May 2009
Library eBook
Camden House
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Table of Contents

Introduction: The Times of Mason & Dixon - Elizabeth Jane Wall Hinds
"The Space that may not be seen": The Form of Historicity in Mason & Dixon - Mitchum Huehls
The Sweetness of Immorality: Mason & Dixon and the American Sins of Consumption - Brian Thill
Consumption on the Frontier: Food and Sacrament in Mason & Dixon - Colin A. Clarke
"America was the only place...": American Exceptionalism and the Geographic Politics of Pynchon's Mason & Dixon - Pedro Garcia-Caro
Postmodernism at Sea: The Quest for Longitude in Thomas Pynchon's Mason & Dixon and Umberto Eco's The Island of the Day BeforeBefore - Dennis M. Lensing
Haunting and Hunting: Bodily Resurrection and the Occupation of History in Thomas Pynchon's Mason & Dixon - Justin M. Scott Coe
"Our Madmen, our Paranoid": Enlightened Communities and the Mental State in Mason & Dixon - Ian D. Copestake
General Wolfe and the Weavers: Re-envisioning History in Pynchon's Mason & Dixon - Frank Palmeri


Mason & Dixon ...provides the greatest challenge to its critics. This excellent collection of essays is intended to reflect "the complex linkages" between the eighteenth century and the contemporary, the postmodern and the "other than postmodern".... The collection succeeds in tackling the vexed relationship between the specific, historical "moment" and the broader realm of historicity with which Pynchon's novel concerns itself. It seems his impressive work has finally got the scholarly text it deserves. JOURNAL OF AMERICAN STUDIES

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