Bring together two for whom Thomas Pynchon is both preoccupation and occupation, and what ensues is a creative and intellectual production that evidences two heads being better than one. Gravity’s Rainbow, Domination & Freedom, co-authored by Steven Weisenburger, Mossiker Chair in Humanities and Professor of English at SMU, and Luc Herman, Professor of American Literature and Narrative Theory of the University of Antwerp, Belgium, studies the place in American cultural and political history of the novel many critics regard as one of the 20th century’s greatest. Published forty years ago this February, Gravity’s Rainbow challenged readers
with extensive references to modern science, history, and culture while bending the rules for narrative art and, as Herman and Weisenburger show, satirically taunting U.S. obscenity and pornography statutes. “Pynchon expanded our sense of what the novel could be,” says Weisenburger. He and co-author Herman situate Pynchon’s work in “Long Sixties” history—anti-war efforts, freedom struggles, free speech crusades, and critiques of late-modern forms of domination—and offer a theoretically and historically informed approach to the novel’s main characters and storylines. “This study realizes a much darker Gravity’s Rainbow than critics have been willing to see,” Weisenburger says. While solidly grounded in relevant scholarship, Weisenburger and Herman have written for both scholars and Pynchon’s worldwide audience, including users of Weisenburger’s previous book: A Gravity’s Rainbow Companion: Sources and Contexts for Pynchon’s Novel. Weisenburger says, “Luc and I wanted to produce a strong, new critical study—and relish Pynchon’s dark humor.”
Prof. Weisenburger thanks Dedman College for its support during his Fall 2012 research leave and for funding provided by the Mossiker Chair in Humanities, which enabled work in the Huntington Library (San Marino, CA), the Bancroft Library (UC Berkeley), and the Ransom Library (at UT-Austin).