Dr. Alex E. Blazer

Department of English

Georgia College & State University

Milledgeville, GA 31061




Convolution, Cataclysm, and Conspiracy:

The Crying of Oedipa Maas


My paper deals with the relationship between female subjectivity and the phallic Symbolic Order as experienced through conspiratorial texts in Thomas Pynchon's The Crying of Lot 49. In essence, it explores the deleterious effects of the mail as well as male systems rendered upon the main character's psyche. To understand Oedipa Maas is to understand how her artificial character, her lack of agency, and her deferral of self toward men unite to form a woman who defines her-self in terms of male order journeys on a quest for mail order that, instead of offering her the transcendently liberating knowledge, only effaces her-self further. Using first Freudian and finally Lacanian theories of subjectivity, I argue that Oedipa Maas pursues conspiracy theories because, as oppositional to the patriarchal world she inhabits, they appear to pose the only way for her, a female, to investigate her own essential identity as distinct from that negation which she internalizes from the men in her life. However, when she lifts the veil, she finds that the mail underground functions just as the normal male symbolic order—to offer faux-transcendence as a means of covering over the void that is subjectivity. Disenchanted of the symbolic and skeptical of the conspiratorial, she marks her subjectivity as null and void, but now does so of her own ironic agency, the romantic illusions proffered by either the symbolic or the subaltern traversed and dissolved.


This abstract summarizes my presentation, "Convolution, Cataclysm, and Conspiracy: The Crying of Oedipa Maas," Twentieth-Century Literature Conference, Louisville, KY, February 23, 2001.