Lines of Flight

Discursive Time and Countercultural Desire in the Work of Thomas Pynchon

Lines of Flight

Post-Contemporary Interventions

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Book Pages: 304 Illustrations: 4 illus. Published: November 2002

Literature and Literary Studies > Literary Theory

For Thomas Pynchon, the characteristic features of late capitalism—the rise of the military-industrial complex, consumerism, bureaucratization and specialization in the workplace, standardization at all levels of social life, and the growing influence of the mass media—all point to a transformation in the way human beings experience time and duration. Focusing on Pynchon’s novels as representative artifacts of the postwar period, Stefan Mattessich analyzes this temporal transformation in relation not only to Pynchon’s work but also to its literary, cultural, and theoretical contexts.
Mattessich theorizes a new kind of time—subjective displacement—dramatized in the parody, satire, and farce deployed through Pynchon’s oeuvre. In particular, he is interested in showing how this sense of time relates to the counterculture of the 1960s and 1970s. Examining this movement as an instance of flight or escape and exposing the beliefs behind it, Mattessich argues that the counterculture’s rejection of the dominant culture ultimately became an act of self-cancellation, a rebellion in which the counterculture found itself defined by the very order it sought to escape. He points to parallels in Pynchon’s attempts to dramatize and enact a similar experience of time in the doubling-back, crisscrossing, and erasure of his writing. Mattessich lays out a theory of cultural production centered on the ethical necessity of grasping one’s own susceptibility to discursive forms of determination.


"Mattessich has written a study to match the difficulty of his subject matter, enacting some of the same processes of self-reflection and self-erasure he identifies in Pynchon's work." — Virginia Quarterly Review

"Those interested in, certainly, Pynchon, but also continental philosophy and contemporary American culture will profit from this book. . . ." — Jerry Varsava , International Fiction Review

Lines of Flight is an impressive achievement, reminiscent of the work of Fredric Jameson in its engagement with social and political issues, its sensitivity to questions of the ideology of form, and the authority with which it parses complex problems of textuality and discourse and identifies their cultural significance. Pynchon has not had so sympathetic a reader.” — Hayden White, Stanford University

“This is an original and provocative book that makes a significant contribution to studies of Thomas Pynchon, to the literature on Deleuze and Guattari, and—most importantly—to the critical project of reading contemporary literature closely, theoretically, and self-reflexively.” — Michael Bérubé, Pennsylvania State University


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Author/Editor Bios Back to Top

Stefan Mattessich is Professor of English at Santa Monica College.

Table of Contents Back to Top

1. Imperium, Misogyny, and Postmodern Parody in V.

2. Ekphrasis, Escape, and Countercultural Desire in The Crying of Lot 49

3. Turning Around the Origin in Gravity’s Rainbow: Parody, Preterition, Paranoia, and Other Polymera

4. A Close Reading of Part I, Episode 19, of Gravity’s Rainbow

5. Docile Bodies and the Body without Organs: Gravity’s Gravity’s Rainbow

6. Totality and the Repetition of Difference: Rereading the 1960s in Vineland

7. A Vigilant Folly: Lines of Flight in Mason & Dixon

Conclusion: Toward a Theory of Counterculture


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Paper ISBN: 978-0-8223-2994-7 / Cloth ISBN: 978-0-8223-2979-4
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