Undergraduate Honors Theses

Thesis Defended

Fall 2017

Document Type


Type of Thesis

Departmental Honors



First Advisor

Karim Mattar

Second Advisor

Jane Garrity

Third Advisor

Arne Hocker

Fourth Advisor

Albert Alhadeff


Among American novelists since 1945, Thomas Pynchon ranks as one of the most accomplished, with arguably the most fully realized and profound visions of Postmodernity. Therefore, his absence from the field of Ecocriticism is alarming. The aim of my thesis is to demonstrate that Pynchon’s 1997 novel Mason & Dixon ought to be considered as an essential text of American environmental writing. My thesis triangulates the environmental vision of Mason & Dixon by highlighting its affinity with environmental literature on three overlapping levels: the specter of the ancient, the spectacle of the new during the Enlightenment setting of the novel, and the novel’s visions of futurity. These chapters demonstrate that Pynchon’s novel proves to be harmonious with the aesthetic and thematic concerns of Ecocriticism. Of particular note is my attentiveness to the postsecular spirituality in the novel, which presents a framework for expanding the religious dimension of Ecocriticism. Finally, my thesis is synthesized in my concluding chapter on the novel’s “ecological carnivalesque.” Drawing upon the aesthetic of Francois Rabelais, and his most accomplished theorist Mikhail Bakhtin, I demonstrate that while Mason & Dixon proves harmonious with a majority of the core concerns of Ecocriticism, the canonical forms of environmental writing are insufficient for containing Pynchon’s vast environmental vision. This section is the most substantial critical intervention into Pynchon and Ecocriticism thus far, and demonstrates the ability of Pynchon to emerge as a vital voice in the field.