Chapter 4 Explosions in the Family Theater: A Schizoanalytic Reading of Thomas Pynchon’s Against the Day

In: Literature and the Encounter with Immanence

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Abstract: This essay argues that Thomas Pynchon’s Against the Day documents a rupture and crisis within American capitalism prior to the First World War and reveals its effects on the labor movement’s struggle in the West. Using a schizoanalytic methodology, we analyze how the novel presents, and then disrupts and contests, the Oedipal/theatrical enclosure of the nuclear family. Revealing the dominant concept of the family as a myth and tragedy, we outline how the novel reveals a web of familial relations and resemblances as a series of breaks and contingent encounters that push the limit of representation. As a result, an immanent, or machinic, unconscious is presented as a form of desiring production per se, one that presents the protagonists as interrogatory figures or ‘conceptual personae’ in an alchemical investigation of unanticipated surplus value.