Reading: Systemic Waste and the Body Boundary in Pynchon's Fiction

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Systemic Waste and the Body Boundary in Pynchon's Fiction

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Ron Jenkins

University of British Columbia
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Abstract

We can understand the connections between the various forms of "waste" in Pynchon's fiction and understand his use of the human body as a metaphor for systems in general by considering the images of bodily waste and bodily integrity in his work. Images of prosthesis, ingestion, defecation, and other transitions of the "body boundary" in Pynchon's writing are not gratuitous, but powerful tools forcefully used to emphasize the pattern of cycles and the themes of death, system, and environment in his fiction. Once we begin to pay attention to Pynchon's frequent images of expulsion of all sorts, and to the symbolism of bodily waste, many obscure or repellent passages become thematically relevant. The image of the body and its boundary, and the concept of bodily waste become cogent metaphors for general systemic treatments of waste, and eventually for the meaning of life and death.
How to Cite: Jenkins, R., (1991). Systemic Waste and the Body Boundary in Pynchon's Fiction. Pynchon Notes. (28-29), pp.91–110. DOI: http://doi.org/10.16995/pn.260
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Published on 22 Sep 1991.
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