Titles and Topoi: Narrative Structure and Organizational Devices in the Work of Thomas Pynchon

Xavier Marco Del Pont

Research output: ThesisDoctoral Thesis

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This thesis will extend the critical supposition common in studies of Thomas Pynchon that the author’s novels bear a direct structural correlation to their respective titles. Taking as a starting point Samuel Cohen’s analysis of the importance of the ampersand in Mason & Dixon (1997), Joseph W. Slade and Tony Tanner’s parabolic models for Gravity's Rainbow (1973), and Harold Bloom’s observations on the V-shape in V. (1963), I intend to apply an analogous logic to The Crying of Lot 49 (1966), Vineland (1990), Against the Day (2006) and Inherent Vice (2009), proceeding chronologically across Pynchon's entire novelistic oeuvre. With the exception of Cohen, who makes Mason & Dixon’s titular ampersand the crux of his reading of the novel, critics have simply gestured towards a connection between Pynchon’s titles and possible visuo-geometrical narrative structures, without delving into the broader implications of this approach or basing their readings of the novels on this titulo-structural correspondence. Recuperating this notion, this study will extract it from the realm of the passing remark and the interesting observation, both analyzing it and proposing it as a form of analysis in itself. By attending to the formal relationship between titles and topoi in Pynchon’s novels, not only will this thesis offer new interpretations of this canonical author’s body of work, but it will also heed to the thematic specificity of each individual text, encompassing the multiplicity of Pynchon’s expansive fictions. This study will be the first to attempt a systematic, coherent analysis of the interrelation between the structuring devices of Pynchon’s novels and their titles. In this way, this thesis constitutes a unique contribution to Pynchon scholarship and, more broadly, the field of American Studies.
Original languageEnglish
Awarding Institution
  • Royal Holloway, University of London
  • Armstrong, Tim, Supervisor
Award date1 Feb 2014
Publication statusUnpublished - 21 Dec 2013


  • Thomas Pynchon
  • Narrative Structure
  • Literary Criticism
  • 20th Century Literature
  • 21st Century Literature
  • American Literature
  • American Studies
  • Anglophone Literature
  • English Literature
  • Titles
  • Contemporary Literature

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