'Working Through' the Postmodern: Posthuman Mourning in Thomas Pynchon’s Bleeding Edge
Scheduled in the Hôtel Fleuriau: Wednesday 7 June, from 16:15 to 16:45
The present paper reads post-traumatic anticipation in Thomas Pynchon’s Bleeding Edge (2013) against the elegiac and invective literary traditions in order to suggest a realignment of postmodern predicaments in reconciliation with the modernist tradition as a means to work through social and aesthetic trauma. I contend that Pynchon problematizes his typical luddite approach to the posthuman by means of an allegorical use of communication technologies as a site for ritual mourning.
Taking Bleeding Edge as a social and aesthetic post-traumatic expression, I contend that Pynchon works through both the S11 attacks and Modernist existentialism by the allegorical use of Deep Archer as a posthuman site for mourning the aesthetic and social loss surrogately experienced by postmodernity. In order to prove this claim, I analyze the trace of two contending literary traditions that sere to give an expression to the processes of acting out and working through trauma respectively; the invective and elegy, also roughly corresponding to the postmodernist and modernist responses to trauma.
By comparing Pynchon’s former treatment of invective excess in his previous works with similar instances in Bleeding Edge and the literary elegiac echoes of modernist and early postmodernist works in this novel, I conclude that the aged Pynchon of Bleeding Edge comes to terms with the loss of the modernist literary tradition that his surrogate postmodern experience acted out through invective forms. The elegiac tone required to give an expression to the non-surrogate, post- traumatic experience of S11 brings about his working through the loss of Modernism, which becomes apparent in the intertextual use of symbols and motifs of iconic texts of the post-WWI modernist elegy.
That Pynchon should choose the posthuman nonlocality of Deep Archer as the ritual site for communal mourning to work through aesthetic and personal traumatic loss also suggests a possible distance from Pynchon’s previous luddite approach to the technological posthuman. Pynchon’s use of the invective has a retrospective sense of anticipating loss that turns elegiac in the end and yet is full of hope for a new beginning. It is in this retrospection that the invective turns elegiac and working through can take place at the psychological and aesthetic levels.