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Updated Up To 23/01/2018
Volume 15, issue 1 (January 2017) : 117-133
Singing Thomas Pynchon’s Gravity’s Rainbow
Interfaces of Song, Narrative, and Sonic Performance
Anahita Rouyan
Rubric A: Audionarratology
Rubric B: American Novel



Thomas Pynchon’s interest in music is audibly reflected in the rich intertextual environments of his works such as Gravity’s Rainbow, a novel which includes numerous allusions to musical pieces, descriptions of performances, and song lyrics. The latter stand out from prose narrative as they introduce new diegetic dimensions to the novel by offering playful commentary on its plot and characters. The present study examines the novel’s acoustic background, pointing to the formal structure of songs and its role in locating singing human voices in opposition to noises emitted by technological devices such as V2 rockets. A classification scheme shows how Pynchon’s formal experimentation juxtaposes written and oral variants of language, thus connecting songs to one of the novel’s thematic centers — problematics of order. This function of songs is examined in an episode of Vaslav Tchitcherine’s mission of promoting literacy among oral tribes of Kazakhstan, that serves as a commentary on the conventional character of writing systems and their ability to transform the poetic quality of language into a systematic structure.

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