Poetics at the Interface

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Pinni B building, auditorium 1097, address: Kanslerinrinne 1.

Doctoral defence of M.A. Samuli Björninen

Poetics at the Interface : Patterns of Thought and Protocols of Reading in Studies of Thomas Pynchon’s V.

The field of science of the dissertation is Comparative Literature.

The opponent is professor Brian McHale (The Ohio State University, United States). Docent Maria Mäkelä acts as the custos.

The language of the dissertation defence is English.

On the ways of reading and analytical procedures of literary study, with focus on Thomas Pynchon scholarship

The thesis studies the novels of the American author Thomas Pynchon with a further focus on how they have been read by academic scholars. The thesis takes the interpretations and readings of the exceptionally widely studied author as a kind of corpus that allows us to approach the “protocols of reading” afoot in the field of literary studies. These protocols can be seen as sets of assumptions about how literature works and how its meaning are formed, and about the functions of the novel. We have taught and learned these protocols both in academic and broader (western) cultural settings throughout the 20th Century.

I focus on the recognizable patterns of thought and analytical procedures that scholars frequently draw on and resort to in analyzing Pynchon’s difficult works. The thesis engages theoretically with the typical opening moves of textual analysis, such as recognizing central themes, key textual passages and metaphors that seem to hold the different aspects of the text together. Also, some practices of producing analyses of literary texts are brought to relief, such as citing the text to bolster an argument or support an interpretation, or proceeding to written analysis only after forming an interpretation of the whole work. This theoretical interest can be employed as a kind of analytical practice that allows me to study both Pynchon’s texts and their interpretations.

Thus, the thesis studies the ways in which literary study produces knowledge about its objects. This aim of knowledge-production has been most clearly articulated in the study of poetics, which has purported to study the means, effects and conventions particular to literary texts. Arguably, however, this pursuit for knowledge has dovetailed with a self-critical reflection of the foundations of the discipline. To this day, it is germane to bring together the skill of textual analysis with an understanding of the necessarily limited scope of theoretical observation. This is perhaps all the more important now, as the disciplines of the humanities increasingly move to various interdisciplinary settings in the academia.


The dissertation is published in the publication series of Acta Universitatis Tamperensis; 2360, Tampere University Press, Tampere 2018. The dissertation is also published in the e-series Acta Electronica Universitatis Tamperensis; 1866, Tampere University Press 2018.

The dissertation can be ordered at: Juvenes e-bookstore or by e-mail: verkkokauppa@juvenesprint.fi.


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