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A Deculturated Pynchon?

Thomas Pynchon’s ‘Vineland’ and Reading in the Age of Television

Tobias Meinel

Pages 451 - 464


This essay examines Thomas Pynchon’s novel ‘Vineland’ as a take on reading in the 1980s. ‘Vineland’s’ suffusion with popular culture and television references has led many critics to focus on its shift in style and content and to read it either as “Pynchon Lite” or as a critical commentary on contemporary American culture. Few critics, however, have picked up on Pynchon’s sustained concern with creating reader-character parallels. Through the figure of Prairie Wheeler, ‘Vineland’ presents us, I argue, with a sophisticated allegory about the entrapments of superficial reading. Representing what Judith Fetterley has termed the “resisting reader,” Prairie guides us through the 1980s Culture Wars in which reading had become a political issue. Under its surface, then, ‘Vineland’ appears as a highly self-reflective novel that complicates cause and effect in contemporary discussions about reading, mass culture, and television.


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