Queer Sexual and Textual Practice: The Postmodernist Poetics of Pynchon's "Gravity's Rainbow"
Franco, Marie W.
This thesis identifies representations of sadomasochism in Thomas Pynchon's Gravity's Rainbow as queer narratives that model the relation between Pynchon's postmodernist poetics and queer sexual practices. I employ a queer postmodernist methodology that extends and complicates Brian McHale's postmodernist narrative theory and the queer theories developed by Lee Edelman, Elizabeth Freeman, and Judith Halberstam. Through my analysis of s/m narratives I explore how s/m, a queer sexual practice that relies on narrative, both reflects and effects Pynchon's postmodernist poetics. I use McHale's theorization of the "ontological dominant" of postmodernist fiction to demonstrate how s/m can be read as a subversive expression of queer negativity, an embrace of the death drive, and an antisocial (feminist) project. Furthermore, my focus on the role of gender and female s/m practice in the novel complicates previous Pynchon criticism on sexuality that either ignores female masochism or attributes it to male pornographic fantasies. Like Pynchon's postmodernist poetics, s/m relies on a disruption of normative narrative, a dissolution of discursively constructed subjectivity, and a resistance to the grand narratives of hegemonic power. This project foregrounds the underlying queerness of Gravity's Rainbow--the paradigmatic postmodernist novel--which modifies the dominant critical reading of Pynchon as a hetero-masculinist author and alters the current conception of what constitutes a queer text.
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