Lecture 12 - Thomas Pynchon, The Crying of Lot 49

author: Amy Hungerford, Department of English, Yale University
recorded by: Yale University
published: April 8, 2011,   recorded: February 2008,   views: 3211
released under terms of: Creative Commons Attribution No Derivatives (CC-BY-ND)

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Professor Hungerford introduces this lecture by reviewing the ways that authors on the syllabus up to this point have dealt with the relationship between language and life, that collection of elusive or obvious things that for literary critics fall under the category of "the Real." The Real can shout out from a work of art, as it sometimes does in Black Boy, or haunt it, as in Lolita. It can elude authors like Kerouac and Barth for widely different reasons. Placing Pynchon firmly in the context of the political upheaval of the 1960s that he is often seen to avoid, Hungerford argues that Pynchon--no less than a writer of faith like Flannery O'Connor--is deeply invested in questions of meaning and emotional response, so that The Crying of Lot 49 is a sincere call for connection, and a lament for loss, as much as it is an ironic, playful puzzle.

Reading assignment:

Thomas Pynchon, The Crying of Lot 49 (1967)

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Reviews and comments:

Comment1 Dominick Guzzo, January 15, 2013 at 7:51 a.m.:

When Professor Hungerford mentions the acronyms around ~11min, I'd suggest that FSM here may stand for Finite State Machine. Considering that the 60s were a time of pioneering computer science developments—especially in California—and Pynchon's own technical background and awareness/research into subjects ancillary to his own field as engineer, this would fit well within the passage.


Comment2 Dominick Guzzo, January 15, 2013 at 9:36 a.m.:

somewhat of a nitpick, but the phrase she can't quite recall towards the middle of the lecture, "Turn on, tune in, drop out," was coined by Timothy Leary, not Ken Kesey.

Comment3 Dominick Guzzo, January 22, 2013 at 3:30 a.m.:

actually, FSM would more likely mean Free Speech Movement in that context, though we shouldn't put it past Pynchon to delve into a bit of technical punnery :)

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