"All is Failure:" The Legacy of the Enlightenment and Thomas Pynchon's Mason & Dixon
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- Student papers (HF-IKS) 
Since its publication in 1997, Thomas Pynchon’s Mason & Dixon has become a literary cornerstone within a continuing discussion about the 18th-Century and its influence on contemporary culture. Initially, this thesis will establish this critical discussion by engaging with the cultural work of Steven Pinker, Homi Bhabha, and Neil Postman, in hopes of developing a spectrum of criticism about the Enlightenment era. Further, it will determined how the Enlightenment movement and its attention to the ideals of liberty, progress, and history are presented in Mason & Dixon and how they engage with the growing concern about the era’s legacy. Slavery, the Royal Society, the Watch, the Mechanickal Duck, and the world-system within the novel will be discussed in order to demonstrate how the novel subverts predispositions about the Enlightenment era. Ultimately, it will be suggested that Mason & Dixon works as an exemplary literary artifact contributing to the interdisciplinary anxiety over the Enlightenment by demonstrating that the contradictory conceptualizations of liberty, progress, and history developed in the novel present the possibility of a neutral narrative, the multiplicity of metahistory, and the complexity of cultural reality.
Master's thesis in Literacy Studies