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Pynchon's New Worlds

International Pynchon Week 2017

La Rochelle, June 5-9, 2017


Mason and Dixon as Post Colonial Subjects in the Abolitionist Landscape
Jeffrey Hogrefe

Scheduled in the Auditorium - Médiathèque: Friday 9 June, from 09:00 to 09:30

At the conclusion of Thomas Pyncheon’s Mason & Dixon, Mason finds Dixon buried in an unmarked Quaker grave and hears his voice calling to him as he settles into a practical life of surveying land. The haunting of the landscape of Mason & Dixon by the specter of the radical Dixon beseeching the scientific Mason is interesting to regard in response to the imagined future of the storied line as a sign and signifier of north and south, free and slave, in the years leading up to the Civil War and in the post slavery contemporary exhibition. Located on the contested edge of the Mason Dixon Line, the Enlightenment project in cartographic certainty that became the sought after destination for the escaped slave, the Potomac River Valley is located at the intersection of the Shenandoah River and the Potomac River in the upland area that supported the John Brown 1859 revolutionary act at Harpers Ferry that precipitated the Civil War and the 1862 Battle of Antietam that led to the Emancipation Proclamation freeing four million slaves in one of the most radical documents in the history of human rights. This erasure of the memory of the slave past in the landscape that actively supported the abolition of slavery has happened largely by the deliberate effects of the reordering of capital formations into new and arguably as insensitive labor bodies in a global space that has been informed by revisionist histories and other processes of knowledge production that have had the affect of freezing past events in crystalline moments that privilege the position of those with sufficient capital to erect the monuments. The Abolitionist Landscape Project, a remapping of the Potomac River Valley, sets out to provide a diagram for a decolonization of the mind through an imaginative presentation of the abolition of slavery and the landscape which supported it above, on and below the Mason Dixon Line. The surveying of the line, the abolition of slavery and landscape are all eighteenth century Enlightenment concepts. Abolitionist and Landscape have been pushed together in an unlikely pairing to create the project, which sets out, through the assembly of an archive, to reinterpret the landscape of the Potomac River Valley as uniquely situated as a habitus for such an important event as the abolition of slavery due to the terms that Pynchon sets up for the landscape in MD. The paper proposes to situate Mason and Dixon as post colonial subjects in relationship to the events that would take place in the landscape that resulted from the mapping of the line and the ways in which the imagination can bring an alternate to the present. Critical terms that will be applied in the paper include monument, subsystems, systems, codes, hautology, erasure, nomadic and settled spaces, networks, space and place, rhizome, and Afro-surrealism.