ALI CHETWYND, JOANNA FREER, GEORGIOS MARAGOS
Much media and audience debate about Paul Thomas Anderson’s film adaptation of Inherent Vice (2009) focused on the sex scene between Shasta Fey Hepworth (played by Katherine Waterston) and her ex-boyfriend Doc Sportello (played by Joaquin Phoenix). The scene sees Shasta provoke the initially reluctant Doc into having sex with her by writhing naked in his lap while detailing her masochistic enjoyment of being dominated and abused by her most recent boyfriend, the real estate mogul Mickey Wolfmann, and his associates. Despite the tenderness Doc shows toward Shasta elsewhere in the film, the ensuing sex is brief, devoid of affection, and aggressive. Immediately afterward Shasta asks Doc, “Does this mean we’re back together?” and sheds a tear after he replies, “Of course not.” To many viewers, what made the scene comment worthy was its multidimensional violence, the emotional painfulness of the relationship supplementing the more overt acts of physical cruelty. Journalists described it as “brutal, difficult, emotional” and characterized by “a physical aggression” that “makes it feel constantly just on the verge of spinning out of control” (McWeeny par. 9), as potentially “disturbing” (Merry par. 4), as “gratuitous” (Nashawaty, qtd. in Merry par. 3), and, most forthrightly, as “an ugly male fantasy” (Callahan par. 7). Online discussion forums debated justifications for the “anger” Doc shows in response to Shasta’s taunting.1 Interviews with Waterston, by contrast, tended to focus on her experience of appearing nude, the questions implying that she might (or perhaps should) have felt ashamed or afraid to go unclothed on the big screen (see Gorber, Merry, and Zhong). These strands of public interest converged in engaging with the scene’s foregrounding of a problematic relationship between sex, gender, and power that plays out not only within the narrative but also extradiegetically, between filmmakers, actors, and audience.
The experience of watching Anderson’s film adaptation is, needless to say, not the same as that of reading Pynchon’s novel, even if the fact that Anderson’s scene was excerpted for hosting on pornographic websites seems a logical end point of Pynchon’s early self-description as, among other things, a “pornographer.”2 Any film adaptation has to specify some of what a book leaves to the imagination, but this particular scene makes significant changes to the action even as it preserves dialogue word for word. In the novel Shasta is more submissive (evidenced by her crawling across the floor to kiss Doc’s feet) but also in clearer sexual control (using her hands to bring both herself and Doc to orgasm) and more vocally angry (instead of weeping, she shouts out curses that Doc assumes are aimed at another man, probably Mickey). While less overtly violent, Pynchon’s version of the scene still, perhaps even more clearly than Anderson’s, operates through the highly gendered sexual power dynamic that the film’s viewers either found titillating or troubling. The filmic mode may well be more likely to create a voyeuristic relationship between viewer and on-screen subject; as one commentator on Anderson’s Inherent Vice points out, when you read a sex scene in prose, “you can control the tone” of events, “making it as real or unreal as you want,” something that is not possible “when you have an actual naked actress in a long take” (Callahan par. 7). However, Pynchon’s novelistic mode also exploits narrative devices and effects that similarly construct (and simultaneously, perhaps, deconstruct) a power dynamic between author, text, and reader. For example, the novel’s textual form turns our full sensory attention over to the language of Shasta’s monologue: in it she expresses an extreme masochism that fits with the traditional alignment of femininity with powerless objecthood and masculinity with sadistic power. She describes how much she had enjoyed Mickey’s “fast, brutal” sexual treatment (of the kind, we assume, she elicits here from Doc) and his ability to make her “feel invisible” (305). She also tells Doc about how she had reveled in Mickey’s control of her when they would hang out with his friends in dingy bars: “He might as well have been bringing me in on a leash. He kept me in these little micromindresses, never allowed me to wear anything underneath, just offering me to whoever wanted to stare. Or grab. Or sometimes he’d fix me up with his friends. And I’d have to do whatever they wanted….” (305). She taunts Doc into an aggressive response by adopting his perspective and telling him how to feel: “I know what I’d do. If I had the faithless little bitch over my lap like this—” (305). The scene is thus only the newest in a lineage—there is at least one in each Pynchon novel—in which a female character takes pleasure either from actively adopting a masochistic role in consensual sexual acts or from passively acquiescing in acts whose consensual basis is more dubious.3 The sadistic “top” role is generally played—with varying degrees of self-consciousness—by a man or group of men: sometimes a villain but just as often a sympathetic character. Such scenes are often formally pornographic, detailing the displayed and subjected female body from a male perspective (as can be seen in the way the Inherent Vice scene has been repurposed as internet pornography).
There are notably few sex scenes in Pynchon’s writing that operate differently. This pattern has prompted critical objections to its apparent misogyny: criticisms that public responses to the Inherent Vice film echoed. However, this scene can be read from other angles. Shasta, for instance, appears quite deliberately to produce her own body as a fetish object, performing a form of female sexual allure that allows her to overcome Doc’s sexual apathy, albeit temporarily. Doc’s own implied perspective might figure him less as sadistically controlling and more as pathetically enslaved to his sexual impulses or as compelled to live up to a cliché of male sexual impulsivity. This complicates and balances the couple’s gendered power dynamic; each body is both empowered and abject, making the indulgence and interrogation of conventional roles simultaneous. Far from simply supplying data for debates about whether to read Pynchon as misogynistic, then, the scene raises questions that engage with the broader ethics and politics of his work. The present collection investigates such questions, making a cumulative case for the previously unarticulated centrality of sex and gender to Pynchon’s worldview.
Although discussion of sex and gender may never have been central to Pynchon criticism, nor has it ever really gone away. Our bibliography of work on the topic lists seventy-one items: a drop in the “Pyndustry’s” ocean, but Pynchon’s work has still been the subject of more gender-focused criticism than that of his putative peers—Barth, Gaddis, DeLillo, Wallace—combined. Pynchon’s gender thinking is idiosyncratic enough to not simply be equated with either that canon of fellow male “postmodern novelists” or that of the popular figures—Roth, Bellow, Updike, Mailer—that his name recognition might set him beside. Pynchon has never written a novel as narrowly trained on the relationships between individual men and women as those of these big cheeses (Roth’s When She Was Good , Mailer’s An American Dream , and Updike’s Couples  and The Witches of Eastwick , for example), but sex and gender have never been extricable from his vision of real-world politics and power either. Amid the current trend toward critical examinations of a “political Pynchon,” it would be a mistake either to examine gender in isolation from his broader commitments, or to investigate his politics or worldview without attention to his clearly—sometimes worryingly—gendered sense of values and capacities.
Pynchon’s generally skeptical treatment of gender expectations doesn’t stop him from offering the occasional essentialist prescription in his fiction, but even these are not often framed in terms of biology. Therefore, throughout this volume, discussions of our titular “sex and gender” focus on the pairing less in terms of the competition between biological and cultural identity than on Pynchon’s treatment of sex acts and sexuality in terms that connect them to the gendered dimensions of his worldview and literary methods. Consequently, our volume offers an array of approaches to sex and gender in Pynchon’s work that examine them not as discrete, peripheral matters for quibble or reservation, but as dynamic determinants of his complex constructive commitments.
In what follows, we first set Pynchon’s gender thinking in the context of his peers, his era, his reception, and their covalent evolution over his half century of writing. We then survey the evolution of gender-focused research on his work in order to clarify what major open questions remain before offering a brief summary of how the essays we have assembled make a start on investigating those questions.
Fifty Years of Literary Culture
Outside the confines of Pynchon studies, which retains a not unreasonable reputation as a boys’ club, Pynchon’s gender politics are still discussed more in terms of limitation than insight.4 As Sonia Johnson suggests in “Selling the Postmodern Novel,” the way Pynchon’s early work was marketed, received, and canonized relied on a thoroughly gendered model of genius designed to appeal to a certain kind of male reader, often explicitly at female readers’ expense.5 Pynchon the writer and the figure is certainly a product of his era, but he sits awkwardly among his peers.
Rather than directly comparing Pynchon with those peers, the pieces we compile here aim to stimulate a reconsideration of how gender works within the field of experimental postwar fiction by examining in methodologically varied ways his relation to gender across his writing career. This kind of full-career approach can demonstrate the scope for such revisionary methods and provide a vocabulary or conceptual repertoire with which to examine comparable authors. Pynchon may not seem obviously comparable to fellow experimental authors of his time like Kathy Acker, Joanna Russ, or Rikki Du-cornet, whose paratextual writings make clear the extent to which their departures from realist convention followed from gender-focused political projects (equally formally radical authors like Christine Brooke-Rose of course wrote just as eloquently about the separability of their experiments and their identities). Yet if, as our volume aims to show, sex and gender nevertheless prove central to understanding Pynchon, this might cast light on how authors as different as he, Acker, and Mailer organized, and circulated within, the same literary culture, each in their own gendered way.
Unlike many of his putative fellow postmodernists, you won’t find him paratextually pushing the well-worn, often gender-conservative equation between formal experiment, sexual transgression, and liberatory politics. Pynchon thus avoids a tendency for equations between formal innovation and masculine writing to lapse into unilluminating machismo. Ronald Sukenick, to take a representative example, turns an interview about how “1968 inspired you artistically” from a brief recital of the “Reichean” equation between sexual, political, and artistic “experiment” into an opportunity to boast about sleeping with his students, courting pubescent girls, and his invincible virility: “Were there any girls you wanted to have sex with and they rejected you?” “No, absolutely not” (“The Sarah Lawrence Orgies”). By contrast, the letters Pynchon sent while writing his formally distinctive, sexually transgressive early novels are, even as they address writing and politics, often almost chaste: literally in lamenting a “long spell of womanlessness” and ethically in his wholehearted approval of friends’ monogamy and marriage, under the acronymized heading “I do like t.s.y.p.g.t” (to see young people getting together) (Thomas Pynchon Collection).6 On the other hand, where the formal innovations of peers like William Gass generate idiosyncratically gender-balanced genealogies—in Gass’s case, one in which Gertrude Stein and Colette are as fundamental as Henry James or Rilke—Pynchon’s publically acknowledged literary lineage is 100 percent male.7 Indeed, the letters often express this bivalence directly, pantomiming both crude macho bravado and eggshell sensitivity. For example, in part of a letter addressed directly to Faith Sale, he pretends to seduce her behind her husband’s back before apologizing for getting “caught” when the letter shifts back to addressing both; in another letter to his friend Mary Beal, a feminist theorist, he laments his own principled absence from a political rally: “[T]hink of all that great neurotic pussy that always shows up at things like—oh, aww, gee Mary, I’m sorry! I meant ‘vagina,’ of course!” (qtd. in Rolls).8 We might see some of the more overtly misogynistic representations in Pynchon’s fiction along similar lines: provisionalized with a wink but gleefully indulged.
Contra the unrepentant likes of Mailer and Roth, Pynchon acknowledges his early work’s ideological limitations with respect to sex and gender in the introduction to Slow Learner.9 His successive novels are often overt about overwriting earlier attitudes, and even the early stories balance their contemptuous depictions of women with a sense of the absurdity of male pride and peacockery. Where a special issue of Philip Roth Studies on Roth and women in 2012, for example, had to set itself the explicit goal of “moving the discussion further away from the Manichean debate over whether Roth is or is not a misogynist” (Gooblar 14), Pynchon’s self-consciousness has always given his critics a way out of the “Manichean” mire.10 In this respect, his nearest analogue may be his English peer, John Fowles, a formally innovative historical novelist likewise subject to much gender-focused criticism. As Bruce Woodcock notes, Fowles like Pynchon was from his first novel onward concerned with the harms of a patriarchal world order but constantly prone to positing solutions that recapitulated the problem one level down.11 Although neither ever makes sex or gender a whole novel’s central concern, its importance to both writers’ historical fiction about contemporary questions reveals a shared anxiety about their writerly relations to wider cultural shifts in thinking about gender. Both imagine alternative futures while acknowledging the possibility that their attitudes might reflect those of an earlier time. This leads to conspicuous intracareer revision on Pynchon’s part, as with Against the Day’s (2006) literal resurrection of Mélanie L’Heuremaudit, the girl dancer fetishized and then violently killed in V. (1963), or Bleeding Edge’s (2013) suggestion that, in the sexual sphere, romance and connection—“Maybe I see him again? […] Yeah. That’s my fantasy” (180)—might today play the transgressive role that back in Gravity’s Rainbow was reserved for scenes of rape or coprophagia. To make sense of the imperatives behind such revision, it’s worth revisiting the fast-evolving culture within which Pynchon has been writing.
Social attitudes to gender over the course of the period between Pynchon’s earliest stories and today are usually understood to have progressed, but recent slippages back toward greater inequality make examinations of the role representational practices play in combatting or reinforcing such inequality particularly relevant and urgent. When Pynchon’s literary career was just beginning, the cultural climate in the United States was starting to shift in favor of greater equality between the sexes following an epoch of postwar traditionalist regression. Congress passed legislation that established and protected women’s rights, such as the Equal Pay Act (1963) and the Civil Rights Act (1964). The feminist second wave gathered impetus, and Betty Friedan’s The Feminine Mystique (1963) helped to elucidate the relationship between domestic containment and mental illness in women, while the category of gender as distinct from sex was introduced to public discourse.12 Despite the widespread acceptance of the new nuclear family social model, the sexual revolution was in its initial phases, and the new availability of the birth control pill had opened the way for the sexual libertinism that publications like Playboy magazine had envisaged since the early fifties and that came to fruition in the free love of the counterculture.
Feminism subsequently diversified into a multistranded movement representing a wide spectrum of aims and interests. Writers, theorists, and activists including Kate Millett, Robin Morgan, Germaine Greer, Gloria Steinem, and Andrea Dworkin helped the women’s movement achieve a number of successes in the 1970s and 1980s. Gender norms and essentialism were challenged by constructivist arguments, debate raged over the damage done to society by pornography, and further legislative victories were won relating to reproductive rights, domestic violence, education, and employment. Meanwhile, the LGBT rights movement confronted persecution, the first official Pride march in the United States taking place in June 1970 on the anniversary of the previous year’s Stonewall riot.
From the early 1990s third-wave feminism demonstrated a broadening self-awareness within feminist social criticism, placing emphasis on the necessity of an intersectional appreciation of the multiple facets—not only gender, but race, sexuality, age, class, and disability—of each individual’s oppression. At the same time, the HIV/AIDS epidemic led to concerted activism from groups like ACT UP, increasing the social acceptance of the LGBTQ community. The 2003 Supreme Court decision in Lawrence v. Texas definitively decriminalized consensual sex between same-sex couples. Since the beginning of the new millennium, transgender people have seen significant advances in recognition and rights. The relations between gender and feminism remain complex in the present-day United States, as a fourth-wave feminism supported by campaigns like “He for She” contends with a postfeminism whose cultural products are by and large firmly part of the mainstream. However, at the time of writing statistics show greater gender equality between cisgender men and women in terms of education, pay, and proportionate representation in the labor force, and representation in high-salaried professions (“Facts over Time”).
Yet despite such changes in the epistemic frameworks within which the norms of gender and sex operate, there are ongoing problems as well as new issues that must be recognized as limiting or even in some cases reversing to an extent the progress that has been made in these areas. The incidence of violence against transgender people remains well above average, with more transgender people than ever before becoming victims of homicide in 2015 (Human Rights Campaign). Although the general incidence of violence against women has decreased it is still disturbingly high: a study conducted in 2011 suggested that 19.3 percent will be raped at some point in their lives and that 43.9 percent will experience sexual violence of another kind (Breiding et al.). In employment, women still earn only seventy-nine cents on the male dollar, and the situation is barely improving, as the trend of growth in women’s earnings relative to men’s that was seen over the 1980s and 1990s stalled post-millennium; on the other hand, men have been particularly affected by the economic downturn that began in 2008 (see Costello and Hegewisch). The increased visuality of American culture, involving an ever more intense focus on the airbrushed physicality of male and female celebrities combined with the instant availability of online pornography has had a measurable impact on both male and female self-esteem, while mental health problems are on the rise (see Twenge). Owing to these factors, in 2016 the World Economic Forum placed the United States forty-fifth in national gender equality out of 144 countries, with an equality quotient of 0.722 where 1 represents full equality and 0 represents inequality.13 Moreover, although the idea that gender is socially formed or “performative” gained significant popular traction in the 1970s, more recent years have witnessed the repopularization of notions of supposedly feminine and masculine characteristics as biologically innate, as genetically or hormonally hard wired (see Walters).
As Pynchon’s novels engage with historically as well as culturally specific aspects of the evolving discourse of gender and sex, his treatment of sex and gender has changed over the course of fifty years. Are those changes a direct response to fundamental shifts in the understanding of gender? Are the gendered power dynamics of his sex scenes and valuation of family bonds a 1950s relic or a visionary critique built on parody of older attitudes? All Pynchon makes clear is his increasing self-consciousness about the questions.
This primes critics to read successive novels as “an antidote to his earlier work” or “an attempt to atone for past sins” (Severs 234; Freer 131). Pynchon gender criticism has been driven by a tendency to identify the novel at hand as either a turning point or progress marker. Robert Holton’s reading of the early stories frames V. as the point where Pynchon “move[s] from accepting the terms of […] 1950s debates […] to critiquing them” (49). Lot 49’s central female character leads numerous critics to see the novel as Pynchon’s first granting of full personhood to women. Critics like Molly Hite who find Oedipa Maas too passive consider Katje in Gravity’s Rainbow to be a more impressive treatment of feminine experience, in part because Pynchon figures her dilemmas in tight comparative relation to those of the notional male protagonist, Slothrop. Hite sees Vineland as the first work in which Pynchon locates the basic “we” and “they” of his political worldview in determinate persons whose relationship is clearly gendered. Severs sees Dally Rideout in Against the Day as “a speaking subject” like “no previous female character in Pynchon” and hence her narrative as a new departure in the thoroughness of Pynchon’s gendered account of capitalism (223). Simon Cook reads Inherent Vice as indicating Pynchon’s acceptance of the passing of the era in which pornography could be transgressive and as a narrative that offers a more sympathetic treatment of women required to be constantly available for sex. Finally, the release of Bleeding Edge saw numerous favorable comparisons of its representation of female subjectivity in the figure of Maxine with that in Lot 49 and Vineland, and critics also appreciated how it uses her culturally savvy perspective to self-consciously probe the limits of “all-male narratives” and “this Male Gaze she’s been hearing about since High-School” (110, 221).14 Only Mason & Dixon, seemingly, didn’t move the gender-defensibility needle.
The risk of such an approach is to figure Pynchon’s gender writing in terms of a step-by-step purging of impurities rather than as a dynamic part of an evolving worldview. Such readings may reject triumphalist teleology—Severs, for example, sees Inherent Vice as a step back from Against the Day’s investment in female focalization—but these disjunctive comparisons make it difficult for those who embrace them to develop synthetic accounts of gender’s place in the Pynchonian career and cosmos. Our collection cultivates such synthetic thinking by assembling essays that cover the whole of Pynchon’s career and advance on prior criticism.
Forty Years of Forerunners
Pynchon gender criticism has evolved essentially separately from the dominant trends in criticism of his work as a whole, despite moments of greater and lesser convergence. A caricature history of Pynchon studies might trace something like the following arc. First, there was source chasing and reference explication. Then, with the academic mainstreaming of postmodernism, he came to be read deconstructively, whether as a doom-mongering harbinger of mere fracture and meaninglessness, a heroic dissolver of order and hierarchy, or a dispassionate theorist of indeterminacies. Vineland’s inauguration of his second wave of novels saw increased attention to his worldly commitments. And finally, the end of “postmodernism” sees him examined in historical-contextual terms even as he continues to publish. The gender-focused criticism within that mass has its own broad trajectory: Pynchon as representative part of a male generation scrutinized through changing feminist approaches; a post-Vineland examination of the role gender plays in those concrete political commitments; gender treated as one thread of his broader engagement with questions of identity, marginality, power, and violence; and finally a sex- and gender-specific thread of that recent historical and contextualizing work.
Early Pynchon gender criticism is bookended by two very different monographs of feminist criticism—Mary Allen’s The Necessary Blankness (1976) and Alice Jardine’s Gynesis (1985)—that make Pynchon part of a transgeneric generational masculine myopia. Allen reads sixties fiction by male novelists in terms of the way it repeatedly figures women as passive canvases across which dynamic male characters play out their philosophically interesting and agentive lives. Finding Pynchon as guilty of this dynamic as anyone, she nevertheless considers his and Barth’s allegorical mode more capable of critique than the male-perspective realism of Roth or Updike. Since it foregrounds the conventionality of gendered practices, she argues, “[f]abulation may not help us know the intricate inner side of female characters, but it clearly brings into focus many beliefs about them” (69). Jardine, by contrast, is more interested in “the process of (reading and writing) woman than about examining the representation of women in literature” (19). She builds on French feminist theory, using it to treat “woman” as a mode of narrative and textual structuration measured by independence from masculinist formal and psychoanalytic norms. She reads V.’s titular figure as a failed effort to imagine such an alternative organizing textuality. Pynchon, she thinks, merely ponders such a principle through conventional male forms: the novel is thus “a perfect example of the thematization rather than constitution of gynesis in contemporary male American writing” (247). Allen and Jardine both focus on V.’s well-intentioned limitations: its inability to construct a genuine alternative to the masculinism it diagnoses in its culture.
This first wave was almost all written by female critics, consciously writing as outsiders not only to Pynchon’s work but to the whole lineage of American literature of which postmodern fiction framed itself as the culmination.15 While some are more optimistic about Pynchon’s achievements than others, they share Allen’s and Jardine’s orientation as female outsiders examining Pynchon within a broader tradition.16 Yet from this external vantage they nevertheless established most of the basic terms within which later criticism would operate: the givenness of misogyny, the credit for insight about a patriarchal world, the imaginative limitations in generating alternatives, and, as Allen and Jardine articulate together, the tension between the feminine as symbolic concept and real women’s subjecthood and agency.
Jardine’s book represents one of the few 1980s engagements with gender in Pynchon: at the height of the interest in his formal indeterminacies, feminist critics engaged with his work mainly to use it as a foil for their preferred model of engaged literature. By the end of the decade, scholars whose first books had addressed Pynchon or metafiction in general—such as Hite, Patricia Waugh, and Linda Hutcheon—had written second books examining innovative fiction through gendered lenses. While Hutcheon combined feminist theory with Bakhtin to develop an influential account of postmodern historical fiction’s antihegemonic politics and Hite mapped the tradition of experimental writing by women over a period canonized as male, Waugh had a different goal: to demonstrate that the antisubjective tendency that 1980s postmodern theory celebrated in fiction like Pynchon’s was a distinctly male privilege: women’s experimental fiction of the era dwelled less on dissolution, she suggested, which made sense, since “[t]hose excluded from or marginalized by the dominant culture […] may never have experienced a sense of full subjectivity in the first place. They may never have identified with that stable presence mediated through the naturalizing conditions of fictional tradition” (2).17 It took the release of Vineland to reinvigorate interest in gender questions internal to Pynchon’s fiction.
The first collection of essays on Pynchon’s comeback novel contains three that focus on the novel’s distinctive gender thinking. N. Katherine Hayles develops an early take on the importance of gendered family commitment to Pynchon’s worldview, Stacey Olster reads ninja DL Chastain as a newly concrete embodiment of alternatives to harmful gender roles, contrasting her with betrayer and absent mother Frenesi Gates with respect to Pynchon’s career-long concern with the alternatives of worldly work and escapist transcendence, and Hite reads the novel as Pynchon’s first properly feminist engagement with the relationship between social power and the contingency of gender roles. For the first time, she says, Pynchon figures the “we” and “they” of his politics in gendered bodies: villain Brock Vond is “unequivocally white and male,” as all Pynchon’s future villains will be (“Feminist” 135). Hite sees Frenesi’s passivity and subservience to Vond’s male power, meanwhile, as a diagnosis of the harms of willful acquiescence to gendered roles: Frenesi’s eventual realization that she has been thoroughly conditioned into a structural role makes her “the character who most fully exposes the feminine as a necessary construction of the neo-fascist They-system” (140). Vineland in Hite’s reading offers an antiessentialist feminist argument about the dependence of gender categories on power: “Because oppression—and, correlatively, repression—are the determinants of gender in [Pynchon’s] world, gender categories prove disconcertingly transposable” (139). It’s left to other characters—DL and Zoyd Wheeler, the now single-parent father of Frenesi’s daughter—to live ethically viable lives that escape those repressive constructions. Subsequently, critics have both connected this gendered political vision to canonically postmodern categories (as in Patricia Bergh’s reading of Vineland in terms of the ethical problems that acknowledging the simulacral nature of gender performance can cause for gendered relationships like that between mother and daughter) and reinterpreted Pynchon’s earlier texts in light of this vision (as when Wendy Steiner, in a history of U.S. fiction between 1970 and 1990, specifically exempts Pynchon from a narrative that otherwise treats male experimental writing as a disengaged and pessimistic foil to more vitally world-engaged feminist fiction of the era).
The post-Vineland decade also saw gender criticism of Pynchon’s work by male critics, especially in analyses of his skeptical treatment of masculinity and of the problems with his seeming self-conception within the project of—in Wes Chapman’s formulation—“male profeminism.” In Chapman’s reading of Gravity’s Rainbow, the key gendered problem is Slothrop’s awareness of “how he himself has been written by the codes of dominance and submission” (par. 14). The novel’s search for a position outside that coding fails, suggests Chapman, because it “can only gesture to a position outside the problem, a position which it cannot itself imagine, by a kind of masculinist gigantism which reveals its own absurdity” (par. 17); it thus is unable to turn awareness of absurdity into a constructive alternative to it. Articles near the end of the decade offer more optimistic accounts of Pynchon’s antimasculinism, particularly a series of articles by Mark Hawthorne about nonhetero sex and homosociality in Pynchon’s works.
In the beginning of the 2000s, another edited volume overtly aimed to set an agenda for work on Pynchon, sex, and gender. Almost half the essays in Niran Abbas’s Reading from the Margins address the theme. The collection explicitly frames its eclectic feminist approaches—from Holton’s contextual situation of Pynchon’s early stories in relation to 1950s debates about male autonomy to Dana Medoro’s psychoanalytic reading of menstrual tropes in Lot 49—as part of a broader consideration of the role that marginalized perspectives and margin-center power relations play in Pynchon’s vision. Gender, in this collection, is just the predominant example of a wider structural logic in Pynchon’s fiction. This approach to gender set the tone for much criticism pertaining to Pynchon and gender over the course of the decade.
Sue J. Kim, for example, builds on Reading from the Margins’s interest in the cumulative role of othered identities in Pynchon to substantively rethink the relationship between identity and form that, before Vineland, had threatened to strand Pynchon on the side of the politically disengaged fabulists. Kim’s book is an attempt to move beyond the simplistic critical politics she calls “Otherness postmodernism,” which insists that “experimental texts by minority and/or female writers constitute political resistance by contravening realist narrative forms,” while failing to grant that resistance to textually similar work by white men (4). Kim instead aims to develop accounts of the specific formal strategies by which specific nonrealist texts generate constructive new takes on race problems. Reading Pynchon alongside Theresa Hak Kyung Cha and Bessie Head, she argues that his treatment of the Herero in Gravity’s Rainbow indicates a rejection of the primitivist racial valorizations of his earlier work, explicitly defending his attention to the flaws and limitations of their “variously complex, conflicted, complicit, and confused” worldview (84). This she sees as a preferable alternative to—and “a much more ‘respectful’ approach to the Other” than—“Otherness Postmodernism’s” reductive equation between form, identity, ideology, and effectuality (110). Insofar as gender remains one of these “Othernesses,” Kim’s work gives Pynchon scholars a means by which to reassess not only the racial but also the gender implications of his work’s specifically formal qualities.
Yet while Abbas’s collection heralded more research on Pynchon and race, the following years were surprisingly empty in terms of work on Pynchon and gender. The major thread in the first decade of the new millennium might be better traced to a 2000 book by Marilyn Maxwell, who—after a decade in which the bulk of work on Pynchon and gender was published in Pynchon-specific venues—took the Allen/Jardine approach of reading his early work as a symptom of a trend. Focusing particularly on V.’s treatment of rape, Maxwell shows how what seem like indictments of male cultural power actually end up reifying a dynamic whereby men are actors and women sufferers. Reading the novel’s various scenes of women backed into cultural or literal corners to the point that they can’t refuse advances, Maxwell identifies an organizing blindspot: “[W]hat happens when the ‘No’ really means ‘No’ and accurately reflects the wishes and intent of the sender? Pynchon does not seem to allow for this possibility” (133). Is not wanting to have sex the final taboo in Pynchon’s work? Maxwell makes clear just how worrying this question is: “By portraying women as deliberate senders of inverse messages in sexually charged situations, Pynchon has, in effect, virtually eliminated the concept of rape” (134). Sharon Stockton, later in the decade, elucidates a pattern in Gravity’s Rainbow whereby repeated representations of women’s rape serve no narrative purpose beyond amplifying the violence of the novel’s broader pessimism. Women’s suffering is thus subordinated to the elaboration of the male ego worry that Waugh had identified as postmodernism’s false universal: each female victim of violence “finally disappears from the text, fades into a ghost who adds an audible note of horror to the dissolution of the masculine subject” (143).
This lens of sexualized violence is not the only way that sex and gender converge in recent Pynchon criticism. Herman and Weisenburger’s Gravity’s Rainbow, Domination, and Freedom focuses, for example, on the significance of changes in obscenity law during the process of the novel’s composition. Freer’s essay on Pynchon and the women’s movement in her wider survey of his relationship to the countercultural 1960s shares with Jeffrey Severs’s reading of the specifically gendered account of fin-de-siècle capitalism in Against the Day both this precise contextualist framing and an awareness of how much of Pynchon’s gender thinking is mediated through representations of sex.
This contextualism, then, is where the shorter trajectory of sex-focused Pynchon criticism also ends up, reintegrated with the work on gender. Catharine Stimpson, in an early survey of Pynchon’s first three novels, had approached sex and gender together in drawing a parallel between the “simplicities” of Pynchon’s early gender thinking and his early fiction’s “appal[ed]” treatment of fetishism and lesbianism as violations of women’s “normative task of acting out and symbolizing natural fertility” (85). But work on Pynchon’s sex writing otherwise begins with the fact that the Pulitzer board refused to award Gravity’s Rainbow the Pulitzer Prize, despite the jury’s unanimous vote in favor, owing to its “obscenity.” Early critics concerned with Pynchon’s pessimism elaborated on the novel’s association of the death-drive with the compulsion toward nonnormative sexual behavior. Such criticism argued in general, gender-neutral terms rather than making its case through analyses of the concrete details of Pynchonian sex, and for all that mainstream reviewers have long characterized Pynchon’s sexual imagination in terms of the “polymorphous perversities” of the untamed libido in Marcuse’s Freudian counterpolitics, this stress on the value of transgression rarely surfaced in academic criticism even as Pynchon’s formal experiments were widely praised in such terms.
Not until the 1990s did critics like Hawthorne and Christopher Kocela start examining Pynchon’s treatment of nonnormative, nonprocreative sex on its own terms rather than as part and parcel of the critique of political domination and violated nature. Indeed, these studies are notable for their low-key appreciation of the way many of Pynchon’s putative perversities are tied to characters’ need for love, acceptance, and other affects that do not feature in standard understandings of pornography. Michael Bérubé in 1992 examined the way that Pynchon’s engagement with the genres of pornography conditioned his work’s relation to mass culture, but the nonsexual significance of Pynchon’s sex writing has only recently received its due in work on Pynchon and genre. Jessica Lawson and Marie Franco, for example, read Pynchon’s accounts of sexual and desire dynamics as analogues for writing or narrative structure, restoring the positive association between sex, transgression, and his formal innovations. Examinations of sex in Pynchon have thus, like treatments of gender, migrated from discussion of symbolic universals to something more concretely historical and formal-generic.
What, then, are the questions that remain for studies of Pynchon and his finally inseparable treatments of sex and gender after forty years of criticism on this subject?
One set of questions pertains to gender’s role in the way Pynchon the phenomenon—whose paratexts range from self-authored blurbs to reviews and popular coverage—has conditioned understanding of Pynchon the author. Meanwhile, if the standard approach to the gender dimensions of Pynchon’s novels has been to set each against its predecessors in a search for turning points, what do we gain or lose by considering Pynchon’s gendered thinking in career-spanning terms? These career-structure questions might illuminate Pynchon’s relation to the gender thinking of his peers, not to mention offering new accounts, as Steiner and Kim do, of who his peers actually are.
Another set of questions concerns the formal dimensions of Pynchon’s work. Following Kim, we can separate Pynchon’s authorial identity, his demographic alignment with the male “postmodernists,” from the issue of what his particular departures from realist convention accomplish. An investigation of this subject might allow us to ask whether there is something distinctly male about Pynchon’s particular forms, whether or not that holds for the rest of his generation. Recent work on the relationship of Pynchon’s sex writing to larger questions of textuality and narrative structure, meanwhile, can help us explore whether his self-conscious engagement with the conventions and history of pornography, obscenity, and textual transgression yields constructive insights and can perhaps show us where its exaggeration of tropes is indistinguishable from indulgent reveling in them.
Questions about pornographic form naturally lead on to questions about Pynchon’s treatment of sex more generally. Does, for example, Severs’s association of Dally’s sympathetic speaking-subject treatment in Against the Day with her exemption from the sexual subordination Pynchon’s female characters are usually subjected to suggest that there’s an inverse relationship between the humanity and sexual nonnormativity of Pynchon’s female characters? Does Pynchon’s work ever imagine sexual pleasure independent of a gendered power dynamic? Do nonheterosexual pairings or group sex scenarios also rely on a gendered power structure, or can they subvert such a structure or do without it? More fundamentally, is all sex in Pynchon limited to a model that essentially pits male power against female-pseudovoluntary subservience, or does the fiction posit other formations as plausible or viable?
This opens up questions about gender’s relation to the core of Pynchon’s vision. Are there elements of Pynchon’s worldview—his metaphysics, his politics, his ethics—that don’t hinge on gendered categories or from which gender can at least be held a separate concern? Is his reliance on traditional feminine associations with family, procreation, and nature part of a viably anti-status-quo program or just regression disguised as critique? Is romantic/familial love merely a construct that facilitates the biopolitical control of sexual relations? Are all marginalized identities of equal significance in Pynchon, or do they play structurally different roles in his basic worldview? Are there marginalized identity positions that his imaginative limitations bar him from seriously engaging with, despite his career-long commitment to the “preterite”?
Perhaps all of these questions boil down to a basic set. Is Pynchon’s fiction fundamentally gender essentialist, and if so, how does this comport with his various antifoundationalisms, and is it necessarily politically reactionary or liberatory? The contributions to this volume investigate such questions and establish groundwork for further elaboration by cumulatively addressing all of Pynchon’s novels through a variety of theoretical lenses.
What’s in Store
The fourteen essays that comprise this investigation are divided—after Molly Hite’s standalone paper brings forty years as a Pynchon critic to bear on her consideration of Pynchon’s early misogyny and its influence on his reception—into four sections. The first two address our titular topics—gender roles and the genres of Pynchon’s sex writing—at a conceptual level, and the latter two explore the practical gendering and sexualization of violence in Pynchon’s work and his career-long interest in the pitfalls and potentials of different models of family.
Hite’s “When Pynchon Was a Boys’ Club: V. and Midcentury Mystifications of Gender” opens the collection with a freshly historicized account of the question of Pynchon’s misogyny, allowing the rest of the contributors to proceed without the hedgings that usually characterize criticism on Pynchon and gender. Hite reads the mysterious V. figure as modernity’s challenge to the stereotype of the apolitical yet rebellious “real man” by offering a model of “real women” based on nurturance and passivity. The possible ways of representing women are so polarized and so supervenient on male models that they can’t be treated in fully human terms. Hite argues that Pynchon was aware of this problem but lacked the tools and terminology to advance beyond it; she identifies the cultural reasons for that, reasons, she suggests, that also partly explain the novel’s enthusiastic reception.
Our first group of papers addresses Pynchon’s general treatment of gender roles. Jennifer Backman’s “From Hard Boiled to Over Easy: Reimagining the Noir Detective in Inherent Vice and Bleeding Edge” elaborates on Hite’s discussion of anxiety about “real” masculinity by showing how later novels treat failures to live up to masculine models in a more productive light than V. Backman focuses on the figure of the hard-boiled detective, examining gender and genre in parallel, the etymological connection being more than a happy coincidence. She focuses on Doc Sportello in Inherent Vice and Maxine Tarnow in Bleeding Edge, a male and female variant, showing how Pynchon both works with and subverts the gender logic of classic crime fiction. Drawing on Christopher Breu’s reading of hard-boiled masculinity as a fearful response to cultural change, she demonstrates how Pynchon reworks clichés in order to scrutinize contemporary expectations about masculinity and agency, empathy, and violence.
Kostas Kaltsas also takes a comparative approach in “Of ‘Maidens’ and Towers: Oedipa Maas, Maxine Tarnow, and the Possibility of Resistance,” which treats Bleeding Edge as an explicit update of The Crying of Lot 49 in terms of the heroine’s political agency. Maxine in Bleeding Edge succeeds, at least partially, where Oedipa failed in resisting the machinations of the faceless powerful: Kaltsas understands Maxine’s comparative success in terms of her greater awareness of the conventionality of gender roles, which allows her to deploy feminine performance to advance her pursuits. Between the two novels, the stereotypically feminine thus shifts from a restriction to an appropriable political tool.
Christopher Kocela’s “Between Sangha and Sex Work: The Karmic Middle Path of Vineland’s Female Characters” widens the focus to non-Western traditions. Identifying explicit allusions to the 1980s sex scandals of U.S. Buddhism, Kocela reads the Japanese sections of Vineland as an argument against commercial Buddhism’s gendered value system, seeing the respective adventures of the novel’s major female characters, DL and Frenesi, as articulations of two models of karma: one subject to those capitalist 1980s pitfalls, one able to overcome them and work for the powerless in specifically female terms.
The next group of essays examines Pynchon’s treatment of sex, particularly what could be called his “sex writing,” moving beyond mere content analysis toward a sexual poetics that includes pornography, sadomasochism, and the redemptive possibilities at the intersection of sex and politics. Doug Haynes’s “‘Allons Enfants!’ Pynchon’s Pornographies” moves away from allegorical readings of Pynchon’s sex scenes in order to show, through readings of V. and Gravity’s Rainbow, that Pynchon aims at a kind of pornographic indulgence in his sex writing precisely so as to foreground the ethical and political dimensions of sex. Drawing on Sade, Sontag, and Deleuze, Haynes examines the historicizing capacities of desire-driven sex writing and elucidates how Pynchon, across his career, treats sexual economies in relation to historical economic developments.
Along the same lines, Marie Franco links Pynchon’s formal idiosyncrasies to his interest in transgressive sexuality. In “Queer Sex, Queer Text: S/M in Gravity’s Rainbow,” she argues that queer sex, in particular sadomasochism, is both a model and a catalyst for Pynchon’s narrative nonlinearity. Pynchon’s sex writing thus becomes a paradigm case of Brian McHale’s account of postmodern narrative instability as an attack on the politics of modernist modes of reading. Transgressive sex thus features in Pynchon’s plots not as pathology but as a subversive political agent, undermining hierarchical power structures.
Richard Moss’s “What Would Charlie Do? Narrowing the Possibilities of a Pornographic Redemption in Thomas Pynchon’s Novels” closes this section by examining the religious figurations that animate Pynchon’s sex writing throughout his career. Moss identifies a growing worry from Gravity’s Rainbow to Inherent Vice about how transgression can be harnessed for dubious political ends. The religious terms of transcendence give way to a sense of spirituality’s inextricability from political and economic orders. Moss thus provides a new account of Pynchon’s changing attitudes to religion and sexuality and to the political and cultural possibilities of their interaction.
With our titular categories of sex and gender thus clarified, the collection turns to investigations of the way they undergird Pynchon’s dealing with the practical and ethical matters of violence and family.
Simon Cook’s “‘This Set of Holes, Pleasantly Framed’: Pynchon the Competent Pornographer and the Female Conduit” returns to pornography, examining the connection between two trends in Pynchon’s sex writing: his use of tropes associated with the dominant channels through which pornography circulated at the time he was writing each novel and the figuration of female bodies as vectors for communication between men that persists across the evolution of pornographic mediums. Tracing these consistencies across novels from three different periods of Pynchon’s career—Gravity’s Rainbow, Vineland, and Against the Day—Cook shows how modern views of pornography have been incorporated into the author’s historically minded works and illuminates the diagnoses of figurative violence that they make possible.
Simon de Bourcier’s “Representations of Sexualized Children and Child Abuse in Thomas Pynchon’s Fiction” focuses on Pynchon’s parallel sexualization of and sentimentality about child characters throughout this fiction. De Bourcier examines Pynchon’s overtly intertextual ways of pursuing this theme through allusions to Nabokov and popular fiction in order to develop a new account of the particularly gendered way Pynchon treats matters of sympathy and innocence through violent events and representations.
In “‘Our Women Are Free’: Slavery, Gender, and Representational Bias in Thomas Pynchon’s Mason & Dixon,” Angus McFadzean addresses the relationship between representational violence and concrete oppression. Mason & Dixon, McFadzean argues, frames three distinct master/slave oppositions: a fixed one between characters and institutions, a fluid one between characters, and an indeterminable one between characters’ gender performances and their true selves. Examining gender in light of these oppositions reveals both Pynchon’s awareness of the imbrication of gender and exploitation and a bias in moral favor of male heteronormativity throughout the novel. What harms does this bias sustain, and how responsible is Pynchon himself for such harms? McFadzean finally identifies Pynchon’s best exculpation as a certain hybridity in his style that mirrors potential hybrid gender identities.
Finally, from the career-long preoccupation with violence, we move to that of family, a subject that Pynchon builds up to addressing, just as our collection does. As this is increasingly the framework within which Pynchon does most of his gendered thinking, we devote more chapters to it than any other topic, investigating two covalent questions: what does the family mean in Pynchon and what values in Pynchon’s worldview depend on this gendered family model?
Luc Herman and John M. Krafft’s research in the Pynchon archives brings us “Pynchon and Gender: A View from the Typescript of V.” Examining a short scene from an invented sitcom that Pynchon cut from the novel because it was “ponderous Social Commentary,” Herman and Krafft detail the gender dynamics of the scene, connecting the family dynamics in it to concerns in the published version of V., like dehumanization and male disempowerment. Cutting this minor scene, they show, made the novel’s investigations of such topics much less “ponderous” but also had the effect of eliminating reference to a concern with nuclear families that would recur much more conspicuously in his later work.
Jeffrey Severs examines sitcoms at the other end of Pynchon’s career in “‘Homer Is My Role Model’: Father-Schlemihls, Sentimental Families, and Pynchon’s Affinities with The Simpsons.” Seeing Pynchon’s voice and script work on The Simpsons as the source for various plot details in Bleeding Edge, Severs argues that the gender politics of Pynchonian families have changed greatly over the course of his career, particularly in the increasing absence or ineffectuality of assertive patriarchs. Homer Simpson, Severs suggests, is a central figure for this tendency in the wider media culture; drawing on these connections between Pynchon and The Simpsons, he examines the role family models have played in the wider trend toward greater engagement between literary fiction and popular TV in the years since The Simpsons began.
In “Conservatism as Radicalism: Family and Antifeminism in Vineland,” Catherine Flay explores the importance of family in Pynchon’s work through a perspective that connects feminism and economic critique. If, as Flay argues, the family stands against capitalism’s individualist ideology, where does that leave women’s personal quests for social and sexual liberation? This is a double bind, where women must work both outside the social norms and outside the network of resistance to them. Synthesizing various Pynchonian concerns—transgression, community, freedom from oppression, power—through the nexus of the family model, Flay reveals how much of Pynchon’s worldview hinges on his attitudes to this one social formation.
Finally, likewise investigating Pynchon’s gender essentialism, Inger H. Dalsgaard’s “Choice or Life? Deliberations on Motherhood in Late-Period Pynchon” focuses on Pynchon’s treatment of motherhood as not only a valuable social role but a normative criterion by which characters’ deserts can be judged. Examining Pynchon’s modes of identifying good or bad motherhood in the post-Vineland novels, Dalsgaard comes to conclude that Pynchon’s worldview is organized by the imperative not just to generate new life but to give children a family to grow up within. Female characters who don’t live up to this model, she shows, tend to fare badly in Pynchon’s worlds.
As we begin with Hite giving a final word on the oldest question in Pynchon gender criticism with an analysis of his oldest novel, we end with an outward-looking focus on the newer work. That work’s preoccupation with family recalls that early letter in which Pynchon described himself as “pornographer […] maybe; novelist no” while lamenting his incompetence with “traditional realist” material. If the “traditional realist” novel has always been entwined with the representation and ideology of family, then one goal for a writer committed to nonrealist methods might be to use them to advance on realism’s understanding of its own turf. Assessing Pynchon’s evolution as a novelist may be inseparable from assessing his evolution as a pornographer. He may have more novels to come, and as this collection demonstrates, there is plenty left to investigate about sex and gender’s central place in his vision.
1. One example is a Reddit thread entitled “Why Is the Sex Scene in Inherent Vice So Awful?”
2. In a letter of June 29, 1963, to Faith and Kirkpatrick Sale, Pynchon suggests that he needs to get better at the “traditional realistic” parts of novel writing, framing himself as “surrealist, pornographer, word engineer, maybe; novelist, no” (Thomas Pynchon Collection).
3. Examples include the gang rape of Fina in V., Oedipa’s orgasm following Metzger’s penetration of her unconscious body in The Crying of Lot 49, Slothrop’s spanking of Margherita Erdmann in Gravity’s Rainbow, Frenesi’s capitulation to Brock Vond in Vineland, the pleasure taken in prostitution by Las Viudas de Cristo in Mason & Dixon, Yashmeen’s rape in Against the Day, and Maxine’s sex with Windust in Bleeding Edge.
4. Since 2000, the gender balance at International Pynchon Week conferences and in collections of essays has been about six to one.
5. Ali Chetwynd, for example, first came to ponder Pynchon’s gender attitudes when as an undergraduate he noticed that every female friend to whom he lent a copy of his then-favorite book V. gave it back to him unimpressed without finishing. Finally, one asked, “Don’t you think [Pynchon] just hates women?” The usual defense is that the novel itself doesn’t endorse the horrible things that happen to its female characters: the more the women suffer the more the male world is indicted! But this perpetuates presumptions about the nature of men’s and women’s agency and relative narrative interest: that men are dynamic and compelling, that women are passive and significant only as foils. Objection to this pattern motivates many criticisms of Pynchon’s gender thinking that don’t treat the representation of gendered violence as intrinsically unjustifiable.
6. Pynchon to Faith and Kirkpatrick Sale, March 9, 1963, and Pynchon to Kirkpatrick Sale, May 28, 1962, Thomas Pynchon Collection. Pynchon and Sale co-wrote the crudely misogynistic libretto Minstrel Island, which is preserved in the Pynchon archives at the Harry Ransom Center.
7. Pynchon is no doubt innocent of anything as emphatic as John Barth’s exclusion of female peers from the fabulatory canon as mere issuers of “secular news reports” (Barth 196). While he has written blurbs for a number of female authors, including Marge Piercy, Mary Beal, Laurel Goodman, Emily Barton, and Lori Baker, none of those blurbs makes matters of sex or gender salient to the recommendation. And while he’s on record calling another Marge his “muse” (Marge Simpson), his doing so on the basis of her cooking rather than her writing hardly answers the objection.
8. Beal is, says Wes Chapman, the one feminist theorist Pynchon’s early work explicitly references (par. 19).
9. As Joanna Freer has argued elsewhere, however, Pynchon’s writing off the early fiction’s explicit misogyny as youthful indiscretion may create the impression that he is seeking “to excuse male sexism as merely infantile” when he should instead be “condemning it as something more malicious” (156).
10. The Cambridge Companions to Updike and Roth both also contain chapters that have to start from zero in arguing that there could be anything going on in their authors’ depictions of women other than ventriloquized hostility.
11. Woodcock’s judgment that even when Fowles “analyses male power most directly, he does so in ways which perpetuate some of masculinity’s most tenacious myths” (12) matches that delivered in many readings of Pynchon, and the two authors’ career-driving self-consciousness about this fact explains the amount of gender-focused criticism each has received.
12. See Repo for a genealogy of the development of the discourse of “gender” as a “historically specific technology of biopower” (6).
13. See “Global Gender Gap Index 2015: Rankings,” http://reports.weforum.org/global-gender-gap-report-2015.
14. Less attention has been paid to the way that Maxine’s fluency with feminist culture allows the novel to be self-conscious about the significance of female experience. For example, in a scene of dubiously consensual sex Maxine’s cultural consciousness saturates the very experience it’s supposed to investigate. Although her rational mind is overcome to the extent that it’s “impossible for her to know if it’s him moving or she’s doing it herself,” Maxine is able within the moment to judge that this is “not a distinction to be lingered on until much later, of course, if at all, though in some circles it is held to be something of a big deal” (258). Pynchon’s work increasingly frames its gendered representations through this self-consciousness about gender theory and gendered culture. Inseparable from her resolution to think about it later, Maxine’s claim to momentary mindlessness actually shows her—and Pynchon—more mindful than ever of context: of how her gendered actions might signify in “circles” beyond the present moment, the present text.
15. As critics like Elaine Showalter and Judith Fetterly observed soon after Allen, that tradition of writing—in British and American literature, respectively—framed its reader as male, its values as universal, and the obstacles to achieving those values as female.
16. See in particular Cathy Davidson’s reading of Lot 49 as the tale of Oedipa’s self-deprogramming from the contingently conditioned role of passive woman, through which she becomes “a woman aware of her own identity, a person more fully human, and thus an androgyne” (49–50).
17. Waugh’s work reverberates in Philip Brian Harper’s later account of how canonical postmodernism’s preoccupation with postsubjective alienation “represents the ‘recentering’ of the culture’s focus on issues that have always concerned marginalized constituencies” (3–4).
Allen, Mary. The Necessary Blankness: Women in Major American Fiction of the Sixties. Urbana: University of Illinois Press, 1976.
Barth, John. “The Literature of Replenishment.” The Friday Book. London: Johns Hopkins University Press, 1984. 193–206
Bergh, Patricia A. “(De)constructing the Image: Thomas Pynchon’s Postmodern Woman.” Journal of Popular Culture 30.4 (1997): 1–12.
Bérubé, Michael. Marginal Forces/Cultural Centers: Tolson, Pynchon, and the Politics of the Canon. Ithaca: Cornell University Press, 1992.
Breiding, Matthew J., et al. “Prevalence and Characteristics of Sexual Violence, Stalking, and Intimate Partner Violence Victimization. National Intimate Partner and Sexual Violence Survey, United States, 2011.” Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report, 5 Sept. 2014, www.cdc.gov/mmwr/pdf/ss/ss6308.pdf. Accessed 16 Mar. 2015.
Callahan, Dan. “Lots of Sex and Drugs, but Where Are the Believable People?” Review of Inherent Vice, by Thomas Pynchon, The Wrap, www.thewrap.com/inherent-vice-review-lots-of-sex-and-drugs-but-where-are-the-believable-people. Accessed 10 Mar. 2016.
Chapman, Wes. “Male Pro-Feminism and the Masculinist Gigantism of Gravity’s Rainbow”. Postmodern Culture 6.3 (1996). DOI: 10.1353/pmc.1996.0017.
Cook, Simon. “Manson Chicks and Microskirted Cuties: Pornification in Thomas Pynchon’s Inherent Vice.” Textual Practice 29.6 (2015): 1143–64.
Costello, Cynthia, and Ariane Hegewisch. “The Gender Wage Gap and Public Policy.” Institute for Women’s Policy Research. Briefing Paper 507, Feb. 2016, https://iwpr.org/wp-content/uploads/wpallimport/files/iwpr-export/publications/C435-The%20Gender%20Wage%20Gap.pdf.
Davidson, Cathy N. “Oedipa as Androgyne in Thomas Pynchon’s The Crying of Lot 49.” Contemporary Literature 18.1 (1977): 38–50.
“Facts over Time.” United States Department of Labor, www.dol.gov/wb/stats/facts_over_time.htm#labor. Accessed 14 Jul. 2017.
Fetterley, Judith. The Resisting Reader: A Feminist Approach to American Fiction. Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 1978.
Freer, Joanna. Thomas Pynchon and American Counterculture. New York: Cambridge University Press, 2014.
Gooblar, David. “Roth and Women.” Philip Roth Studies 8.1 (2012): 7–15.
Gorber, Jason. “Talking to Inherent Vice’s Katherine Waterston about Joaquin, PTA, and Nudity.” Cineplex, 26 Dec. 2014, www.cineplex.com/News/Talking-to-Inherent-Vices-Katherine-Waterston-about-Joaquin-PTA-and-nudity.aspx. Accessed 10 Mar. 2016.
Green, Geoffrey, Donald J. Greiner, and Larry McCaffery, eds. The Vineland Papers: Critical Takes on Pynchon’s Novel. Normal: Dalkey Archive Press, 1994.
Harper, Phillip Brian. Framing the Margins: The Social Logic of Postmodern Culture. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1994.
Hawthorne, Mark D. “‘Hi! My Name Is Arnold Snarb!’ Homosexuality in The Crying of Lot 49” Pynchon Notes 44–45 (1999): 65–81.
Hayles, N. Katherine. “‘Who Was Saved?’ Families, Snitches, and Recuperation in Pynchon’s Vineland.” Green, Greiner, and McCaffery 14–30.
Herman, Luc, and Steven Weisenburger. Gravity’s Rainbow, Domination, and Freedom. Athens: University of Georgia Press, 2013.
Hite, Molly. “Feminist Theory and the Politics of Vineland.” Green, Greiner, and McCaffery 135–53.
———. The Other Side of the Story: Structures and Strategies of Contemporary Feminist Narrative. Ithaca: Cornell University Press, 1992.
Holton, Robert. “‘Closed Circuit’: The White Male Predicament in Pynchon’s Early Stories.” Thomas Pynchon: Reading from the Margins. Ed. Niran Abbas. Madison: Fairleigh Dickinson University Press, 2003. 37–50.
Human Rights Campaign. “Addressing Anti-Transgender Violence.” Nov. 2015, http://hrc-assets.s3-website-us-east-1.amazonaws.com//files/assets/resources/HRC-AntiTransgenderViolence-0519.pdf. Accessed 16 Nov. 2017.
Inherent Vice. Dir. Paul Thomas Anderson. Warner Bros., 2014.
Jardine, Alice. Gynesis: Configurations of Woman and Modernity. Ithaca: Cornell University Press, 1985.
Johnson, Sonia. “Selling the Postmodern Novel: Marketing and Reception of Literary Masculinities in Postwar American Fiction.” PhD diss. University of Iowa, 2014.
Kim, Sue J. Critiquing Postmodernism in Contemporary Discourses of Race. New York: Palgrave Macmillan, 2009.
Kocela, Christopher. Fetishism and Its Discontents in Post–1960 American Fiction. New York: Springer, 2010.
Lawson, Jessica. “‘The Real and Only Fucking Is Done on Paper’: Penetrative Readings and Pynchon’s Sexual Text.” Against the Grain: Reading Pynchon’s Counternarratives. Ed Sascha Pöhlmann. Amsterdam: Rodopi, 2010. 231–49.
Maxwell, Marilyn. Male Rage, Female Fury: Gender and Violence in Contemporary American Fiction. Lanham: University Press of America, 2000.
McWeeny, Drew. “Katherine Waterston on Navigating the Controlled Chaos of Inherent Vice.” Hitfix, 17 Dec. 2014, www.hitfix.com/motion-captured/katherine-waterston-on-navigating-the-controlled-chaos-of-inherent-vice. Accessed 10 Mar. 2016.
Merry, Stephanie. “Katherine Waterston Is Ready for Your Lame Questions about That Inherent Vice Sex Scene.” Washington Post, 8 Jan. 2015, www.washingtonpost.com/news/arts-and-entertainment/wp/2015/01/08/katherine-waterston-is-ready-for-your-lame-questions-about-that-inherent-vice-sex-scene. Accessed 10 Mar. 2016.
Olster, Stacey. “When You’re a (Nin)jette, You’re a (Nin)jette All the Way—Or Are You?: Female Filmmaking in Vineland.” Green, Greiner and McCaffery 119–34.
Pynchon, Thomas. Bleeding Edge. New York: Penguin, 2013.
———. Inherent Vice. London: Vintage, 2010.
———. Thomas Pynchon Collection. Harry Ransom Humanities Research Center, University of Texas at Austin.
Repo, Jemima. Biopolitics and Gender. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2015.
Rolls, Albert. “‘A Dual Man [and Oeuvre], Aimed Two Ways at Once’: The Two Directions of Pynchon’s Life and Thought.” Orbit: A Journal of American Literature 4.1 (2016). DOI: 10.16995/orbit.188.
Severs, Jeffrey. “‘The abstractions she was instructed to embody’: Women, Capitalism, and Artistic Representation in Against the Day.” Pynchon’s Against the Day: A Corrupted Pilgrim’s Guide. Ed. Jeffrey Severs and Christopher Leise. Newark: University of Delaware Press, 2011. 215–38.
Showalter, Elaine. A Literature of Their Own: British Women Novelists from Brontë to Lessing. Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1977.
Steiner, Wendy. “Postmodern Fictions, 1970–1990.” The Cambridge History of American Literature. Vol. 7. Ed. Sacvan Bercovitch. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1999. 425–538.
Stimpson, Catharine. “Pre-Apocalyptic Atavism: Thomas Pynchon’s Early Fiction.” Modern Critical Views: Thomas Pynchon. Ed. Harold Bloom. New York: Chelsea House, 1986. 79–92
Stockton, Sharon. The Economics of Fantasy: Rape in Twentieth-Century Literature. Columbus: Ohio State University Press, 2006.
“The Sarah Lawrence Orgies of 1968: An Interview With Author Ronald Sukenick.” The Write Stuff, www.altx.com/int2/suk.html. Accessed 15 Apr. 2017.
Twenge, Jean M. “Time Period and Birth Cohort Differences in Depressive Symptoms in the U.S., 1982–2013.” Social Indicators Research 121.2 (2015): 437–54.
Waugh, Patricia. Feminine Fictions: Revisiting the Postmodern. New York: Routledge, 2012.
Walters, Natasha. Living Dolls: The Return of Sexism. London: Virago, 2010.
“Why Is the Sex scene in Inherent Vice so Awful?” Reddit, 20 June 2015, www.reddit.com/r/flicks/comments/3aibe5/why_is_the_sex_scene_in_inherent_vice_so_awful. Accessed 10 Mar. 2016.
Woodcock, Bruce. Male Mythologies: John Fowles and Masculinity. Totowa: Barnes & Noble, 1984.
World Economic Forum. “Global Gender Gap Index 2015: Rankings.” http://reports.weforum.org/global-gender-gap-report-2015. Accessed 20 Mar. 2016.
Zhong, Fan. “Katherine Waterston’s Belated Breakout Role.” W Magazine, 22 Dec. 2014, www.wmagazine.com/story/katherine-waterstons-belated-breakout-role. Accessed 16 Nov. 2017.