Our minds on media.

Musings on the effects of media on cognition.

Herman 2003

Herman, Luc and Robert Hogenraad and Wim Van Mierlo. “Pynchon, postmodernism and quantification: an empirical content analysis of Thomas Pynchon’s Gravity’s Rainbow” *Language and Literature*, Vol. 12, No. 1, 27-41 (2003) Sage Publications.

This post is part of Banapana’s running bibliography.


Thomas Pynchon’s Gravity’s Rainbow (1973) has been received as a canonical instance of postmodernism. The novel appears to subvert traditional definitions of plot and characterization, yet the narrative retains a nagging sense of order underneath the represented chaos. Simultaneously evoking and undoing patterns on all levels of its narrative structure, Gravity’s Rainbow surreptitiously evokes the presence of a night journey (Martindale, 1979). An empirical content analysis of the novel confirms this ambiguous attitude with respect to patterning in the novel, and thus constitutes a first and modest step towards the quantification of postmodernism. First, a thematic analysis, calculating the co-variations of words across the chapters, corroborates the idea of a connectedness that seems to belie, in part, the pervasive presence of a paranoid hermeneutic. Second, a dictionary-based analysis of narrative sequences reveals an inverse night journey pattern that differs markedly from other patterns found for modernist novels. The configurations that were obtained in these analyses show that content analysis can distinguish empirically between two literary – historical concepts.

Link to paper

Sage Journal

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