‘Gender Blending and Psychic Phenomena: Forming Ecomasculinities in Gravity’s Rainbow‘ in Ecomasculinities: Negotiating Male Gender Identity in U.S. Fiction. Edited by Rubén Cenamor and Stefan Brandt. Lexington books, 2019.
Excerpt: Thomas Pynchon’s 1973 novel Gravity’s Rainbow fuses postmodernist themes with environmentalist ideology to create a narrative consistent with the tenets of deep ecology. Through a focus on extreme interconnectivity, Pynchon’s novel dismantles the binarisms of traditional Western thought, represented in the novel through a plethora of disturbing father figures, and in so doing lays the groundwork for a new form of ecomasculinity; one built on a sense of equality with the rest of the natural world, and more radically, a complete embeddedness within it. The foundations for this new expression of manhood are constructed through binary-collapsing reorientations of the self, including gender blending, psychic phenomena, and, of course, a rejection of man/nature divisions. The radical ecomasculine in Gravity’s Rainbow understands ‘masculine’ and ‘feminine’ as social constructs and is therefore released from gendered expectations to enjoy ‘gender blending’ as an expression of the unedited self. It experiences psychic phenomena which destabilise boundaries between self and other and extends that through a connection to the more-than-human world which recognises the consciousness of the planet and of all life contained therein, and communes with that world on equal terms. The notion of the radical ecomasculine is formed in the novel through the journey of Tyrone Slothrop, but his eventual transcendence is prefigured by other characters, including Pirate Prentice, Roger Mexico, and Lyle Bland, as well as his own ancestor, William Slothrop, who all embody the ecomasculine in slightly different ways.