Swarthmore / English 52B

Gravity's Rainbow / Reading Notes 3-4 [for third & fourth weeks]

Oct. 24: read GR Part III, sections 11-32 (pp. 403-627).

Give special emphasis to:
11 the longest episode in the novel is also its center: Berlin in the 1920s and the origins of German rocketry and psychosis, via Pokler

14-15 eros and thanatos: an orgy on the good ship Anubis
16 Margherita’s homocidal mania and White Goddess symbolism
17 Greta’s background; more info on Rocket 00000 etc., linked to White Sands New Mexico (U.S. atomic bomb program)

25 on lost lemmings and Slothrop’s Puritan ancestors
26 S. disguised as a Soviet officer warns the Schwartzkommando; more on 00000
27 continuing themes of section 26
28-30 crucial revelations re Slothrop our pig-hero and Pokler
31 a failed castration; the Enola Gay approaches Hiroshima; the circular fertility dance of the preterite
32 Pointsman’s ignominy

Oct. 31 (Hallowe’en!): Part Four (finish GR) 12 episodes

We learn the fates of most of the major characters.... sort of....

Slothrop episodes:

1 Slothrop as Orpheus and as blues harmonica player, among other avatars. He finds the "harp" he lost down the Roseland Ballroom toilet!

4 Katje and Enzian discuss Weissmann/Blicero, Slothrop, & other topics

6 [Slothrop fragments but also becomes legendary], 12

Other especially important episodes in GR 4:

#3 Skippy, Mister Information, and Happyville, then the famous Byron the Bulb parable (about feedback, control, and cooptation?)

#8 (all) and 12 (Orpheus Puts Down Harp): consider for a last time the role of comedy/farce in GR

On Weissmann/Blicero and the angel of death:

  • #5 and #9: Thanatz's perspectives.
  • #12 for Weissmann/Blicero and the launching of Rocket 00000: see especially the sections Weissmann's Tarot, Pre-Launch, Hardware, Countdown, Clearing, and Ascent. also check out Melville's Moby-Dick, ch 95, "The Cassock," for a different kind of phallus/shroud!
Other sections in #12 of special interest:
  • Occupation of Mingeborough
  • Chase Music
  • Descent