Acts of Observing

Author: Dirk Van Hulle (University of Antwerp)

  • Acts of Observing


    Acts of Observing



The game of watching and being watched in the Nausicaa episode of Joyce's Ulysses may serve as an analogy for any act of reading Gravity's Rainbow. At least that is what Pynchon's text seems to suggest. The ingredients of the scene (the seen and the seer: Gerty MacDowell willingly showing her legs, Leopold Bloom staring his eyes out and masturbating with the fireworks in the background) make Sandymount Beach into an all too concrete manifestation of "the Zone, with somewhere in it a Text, to be picked to pieces, annotated, explicated, and masturbated till it's all squeezed limp of its last drop" (GR 520). Bruno Arich-Gerz intensifies and raises this critical Bay Watch to the fourth power. The aim of Lesen–Beobachten is to revise issues in reader-response theory. Based on Niklas Luhmann's systems theory, this revision focuses on four levels in the reception process to reformulate the role of the reader by means of the concept of the observer [Beobachter]. Readers, as Luhmann notes, cannot be observed like partners in oral communication. Arich-Gerz cunningly tackles this problem by observing critics, who present their readings as observations, which can in their turn be observed. The four levels to which this strategy is applied are the act of reading literature in general, the acts of reading Gravity's Rainbow in particular, Wolfgang Iser's Akt des Lesens (and other theories of reading), and finally the–in their turn observable–acts of reading Der Akt des Lesens.

How to Cite:

Van Hulle, D., (2001) “Acts of Observing”, Pynchon Notes , 260-263. doi:

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Published on
22 Sep 2001