Date of Award


Degree Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy


This thesis situates Thomas Pynchon's Gravity's Rainbow (1973) in the Apocalyptic tradition. In constructing this tradition I have employed the critical theories--or critical visions--of Northrop Frye, Mircea Eliade, and of the "Toronto School" of communication theorists: Marshall McLuhan, Eric Havelock, and Walter Ong. Ong's conception of the "technologizing of the word" provides the unifying theme of this thesis, a theme which I extend into the postmodern context where it manifests itself in Pynchon's Rocket/Word.;The first chapter examines the way in which pre-literate oral cultures, Hesiod, Plato, Herodotus, and Thucydides are apocalyptic or anti-apocalyptic. The second chapter focuses on the Bible, which provides the central apocalyptic paradigms and which transmutes the imaginative space of myth into a new dialogical, historical space--or "apocalyptic space"--which has the character of a textual field oriented towards signification and "meaning" in contrast to the "oral" mode of participating in the "being" of the cosmos via cultic ritual attunement with the cycles of nature. I discuss four covenants of the Old Testament (Noah, Abraham, Sinai, David) as enactments of the process of what I call the "hermeneuticizing of the cosmos." I relate this apocalyptic/textual space to principles of biblical typology, Puritanism, and to surprisingly analogous ideas of apocalypse in the theories of Northrop Frye and Jacques Derrida.;Chapter three concentrates more specifically on Gravity's Rainbow with some consideration also given to The Crying of Lot 49 and other works of the American apocalyptic tradition. Tyrone Slothrop, I argue, can usefully be seen as a postmodern Puritan adrift in the Zone: the hyperreal postmodern space for which he has no Bible to serve as his great code. The Zone is an apocalyptic space of signification where the Rocket serves as another ambiguous Logos. This exploding Word--with its metonymic links to the Bomb--is consistent with the double-edged symbolism of biblical apocalyptic revelations, including the smashed tablets of Sinai, the deferred Kingdom of Israel in exile, or Christ as the crucified Logos. Finally, I will consider the way in which Pynchon's postmodern style is, itself, revelatory and apocalyptic.



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