Does the current class of college students read Pynchon's Gravity's Rainbow and what is their general opinion? 

1 Answer | Add Yours

akannan's profile pic

Ashley Kannan | Middle School Teacher | (Level 3) Distinguished Educator

Posted on

Any question that seeks to establish opinion about literature will always have divergent responses.  I do think that Pynchon's work is read at the collegiate level.  Given how it embraces so much and is so encompassing, it does not seem entirely likely that it would be widely read on the high school level.  This becomes one reason why it can be seen in the collegiate reading curriculum.  

The National Association of Scholars assembled data about what books are widely read at colleges and universities.  The NAS concluded that "the preponderance of reading assignments promotes liberal social causes and liberal sensibilities."  Colleges and universities thus typically expose their students to literature that aligns with a specific political agenda, something that might not necessarily indicate that Pynchon's work is amongst the most read.  Given how Gravity's Rainbow is so heavily Post- Modern in its scope and reach, there is a good chance that it will not be something featured amongst works such as Three Cups of Tea or The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks. However, the NAS suggests that literature on college campuses can be chosen in order to embrace a wide variety of thematic concerns:  "Alienation and oppression are important themes but so are courage, fidelity, redemption, self-sacrifice, fellowship, and truth, among others."   It can be in this construction where Pynchon's work might be embraced as enhancing the collegiate reading list.  Pynchon's work strikes at the nature of being in the world, suggesting that concepts like sacrifice and redemption might have to be appropriated within the individual in order to avert the condition articulated in Gravity's Rainbow.  Pynchon's themes of paranoia, government and corporate control, as well as power structures' roles in the lives of human beings suggest that individuals need to embrace a different mindset in order to embrace "important themes" intrinsic to being in the world.

Gravity's Rainbow is a collegiate text because it forces individuals to embrace "L"iterature.  Outside of the novel's critical praise in its placement on esteemed reading lists, college students could find that Gravity's Rainbow is challenging and something worthy of their time and efforts.  Students would find the work challenging in terms of reading, understanding, discussing, and writing about it.  Given how many websites are dedicated to better understanding of the book and notes about Pynchon's work, it is clear that the book is a part of the collegiate culture.  Some students will probably dislike it because of its challenge.  However, if the metric of whether a work is liked is its level of thought generated as a result of reading it, then Gravity's Rainbow is something that college students would find rewarding.

Sources:

We’ve answered 318,990 questions. We can answer yours, too.

Ask a question