Visual simultaneity and temporal multilayeredness in Thomas Pynchon's "Against the Day"

Arkadiusz Misztal


The paper seeks to discuss the dynamics of visual simultaneity and temporal multi-layeredness in Thomas Pynchon’s novel Against the Day. The title of the book is the translation of the French term contre-jour, "a photographic effect that refers to photographs where the camera is pointed directly toward the source of light, creating backlighting of the subject" (PynchonWiki). Accordingly, Against the Day, another of Pynchon’s encyclopedic narratives, explores the concept of visual time, mostly but not exclusively, in photography. I argue that Pynchon in Against the Day resorts to this new visual medium to study the modern temporal dimension of culture and its knowledge frame grounded on the conceptual principles of physics, the idea of linear causality and reversibility. The novel breaks with the prevailing knowledge of clock-time by deconstructing the idea of "a slice of time" and replacing it with more complex visions revealing the temporal multi-layeredness of the photographic image. This multi-layeredness reinforces temporal fluidity which informs Pynchon’s imaginative strategies employed in the creation of co-existing but disjunctive temporalities, radically different timescales and multiple temporal itineraries. These strategies not only deliberately sabotage chronology and linearity of the narrative, but also playfully engage with some of scientific models of time (such as Einstein’s theory of relativity or Minkowski spacetime) and contribute to what Pynchon calls the "modern Luddite imagination" and its "impulse to deny the machine".
Author Arkadiusz Misztal (FL / IEAS)
Arkadiusz Misztal,,
- Institute of English and American Studies
Journal seriesImage (&) Narrative, ISSN 1780-678X, (C 10 pkt)
Issue year2017
Publication size in sheets1
Keywords in Englishvisual simultaneity, temporality, narrative, American novel, Thomas Pynchon
Languageen angielski
LicenseJournal (articles only); published final; Uznanie Autorstwa - Użycie Niekomercyjne - Bez utworów zależnych (CC-BY-NC-ND); with publication
Score (nominal)10
ScoreMinisterial score = 10.0, ArticleFromJournal
Ministerial score (2013-2016) = 10.0, ArticleFromJournal
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