The Political Imagination of Thomas Pynchon’s Later Novels

by Diana Benea

This book is an attempt to illuminate the ways in which Thomas Pynchon’s later novels – Vineland (1990), Mason & Dixon (1997), Against the Day (2006), Inherent Vice (2009), and Bleeding Edge (2013) – configure a vibrant political imagination, which marks a significant departure from the paranoid and entropic vision of his earlier (high postmodernist) works.

The more recent novels invite reflection on a series of issues invested with a significant ethical and political dimension, committing themselves to a vocabulary that foregrounds the values of community, social justice, relationality, and interdependence. By placing this corpus in conversation with influential works in contemporary (political) philosophy — in particular, late Foucault and late Derrida — this study argues that the subtle shift of sensibility at the heart of Pynchon’s later fiction is most visible in its re-envisioning of the relation of the self to the Other in more hospitable terms.

Reviewed by Scott McClintock for Orbit: A Journal of American Literature 7.1 (2019), Open Library of Humanities, UK.

Reviewed by Ali Chetwynd, “Late Pynchon Theorized: A Review of Diana Benea, The Political Imagination of Thomas Pynchon’s Later Novels, and Sean Carswell, Occupy Pynchon: Politics after Gravity’s Rainbow.” American, British and Canadian Studies, Vol. 33 (2019): 233-243.