Reading: Text is a Text is a Text


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Text is a Text is a Text


Judith Chambers

Hillsborough Community College
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Interpreting postmodern literary texts increasingly means entering into the current conversation of critical theory: the debate over the nature and status of postmodernism itself and over the status of the subject, of master narratives and, finally, of language as well. The critic generally interrogates the author's critique of the practice of privileging traditional binary oppositions that serve as institutional and linguistic loci of power and control. But an inherent trap awaits any postmodernist reading of a postmodernist text: certain foundationalist assumptions inform all applied theory. As Kurt Gödel proved in mathematics, theory is bound to the internal limits of its logic, even when the theory itself acknowledges its own limits and espouses contingency. The application of contemporary theory must then involve leaving out information to be consistent or leaving out information to be complete. Brilliant as a critic's examination of a literary text may be, the question remains: is it possible to read texts in some shorthand form and still manage to maintain the same information content as the texts being read? Both Gödel's theorem, which Pynchon alludes to in Gravity's Rainbow, and the concept of algorithmic transcomputability, the idea that some information cannot be compressed into shorthand form, suggest not.
How to Cite: Chambers, J., (1993). Text is a Text is a Text. Pynchon Notes. (32-33), pp.196–200. DOI:
Published on 22 Sep 1993.
Peer Reviewed


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