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Title: Stories of land and spirit : reimagining Thomas Pynchon's California trilogy
Author: Garner, Naomi
ISNI:       0000 0004 6350 6893
Awarding Body: Durham University
Current Institution: Durham University
Date of Award: 2017
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This thesis investigates the ongoing significance of the state of California in the novels of Thomas Pynchon. It does so by focusing on the (counter) cultural, spiritual and geopolitical histories that are present in and/or intertwined with Pynchon’s work. Building on recent scholarship that has reinforced the notion of a California trilogy, this project seeks to open up new ways of engaging with both the fictional and historical resonances of Pynchon’s Californian spaces. Using a kind of narrative/investigative methodology that places a special emphasis on Pynchon’s well-established dedication to marginalized or ‘preterite’ communities, one of the key strands in this thesis is the role of American Indian history and culture in a lived Californian context. The project traces unexplored aspects of Pynchon’s engagement with American Indian experience and it does so with a view to reimagining the scope of his Californian landscapes. This immersive approach to the lost stories of land and spirit that lie within and beyond Pynchon’s fiction also functions more expansively in questioning some of the standardised categories of the postwar U.S. novel (such as experimental postmodernism vis-vis ‘rooted’ forms of ethnic testimony and protest). The project is divided into three large chapters, sequentially moving through each of the novels of the California trilogy — The Crying of Lot 49 (1966), Vineland (1990), and Inherent Vice (2009) — while at the same time establishing cross-textual connections that complicate and enrich a linear chronological approach. The first chapter establishes a crucial base for the reinterpretation of these novels by placing The Crying of Lot 49 in the context of Cold War anxiety and the subsequent flourishing of interest in alternative spiritualities, ultimately offering a new way of navigating the novel’s spaces and the quest of its central protagonist. Chapter two takes on the distinct ecology of Northern California by zeroing in on Pynchon’s depiction of the redwood forests in Vineland, showing how the stories contained within the trees point towards a fresh understanding of the broad and varied Californian histories that flow through each of the novels. The third chapter on Inherent Vice concentrates on marginalised and displaced communities in the context of histories of land (re)development. The attention to specificity and detail that this approach affords reflects the complex, layered landscape that Pynchon presents. Furthermore, this method clarifies the place of California in Pynchon’s work, and suggests California as a representative space for Pynchon’s national and global concerns.
Supervisor: Not available Sponsor: Not available
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral
EThOS ID:  DOI: Not available