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"Sound and Vision": Thomas Pynchon, Perception, and Transcendence


  • Viktor Ferdinand Kovács

Summary, in English

Previous studies of Thomas Pynchon’s works have made progress in defining numerous aspects of what could be construed as the Pynchonian worldview. However, they have mainly identified them in general, visual terms, separated from the level of the direct experience of his characters. The process of perception is important in philosophical inquiry, but its role in the worldview of Pynchon’s works has thus far not been examined in depth. Perceptions of all kinds, especially of the auditory kind, feature prominently in Pynchon’s works, but previous studies of Pynchon’s representations of perceptions have mainly focused on music and sound technologies. Using a theoretical framework from the field of literary sound studies, and Ihde’s phenomenology of sound, which distinguishes between the perceptual and imaginative modes of experience, I analyze Pynchon’s unique perceptual representations in his novels Gravity’s Rainbow and The Crying of Lot 49, identify Pynchon’s tendency for suspicion towards the perceptual mode, and outline a distinctly Pynchonian mode of perception visible throughout these works: one that erases the distance between the modes of experience. This mode of perception has multiple purposes: functioning as a method for shaping his characters’ direct experience into a more meaningful one in the midst of the postmodern erosion of their worldviews; as a method for making their spiritual notions more subjectively “real”; and as a form of resistance against insurmountable power structures.


Publishing year




Document type

Student publication for Bachelor's degree


  • Languages and Literatures


  • Perception
  • transcendence
  • auditory self
  • phenomenology
  • modalities of experience
  • perceptual mode
  • imaginative mode
  • Thomas Pynchon
  • Gravity's Rainbow
  • The Crying of Lot 49


  • Annika Lindskog