Large conclusions seem inappropriate for this present stage of earliness in our reception of this wonder-filled new gift from Pynchon. We need to keep our discussions as open and wide-ranging and undogmatic as possible, to place the novel's comic and tragic world views in continual juxtaposition. We need to keep our humility and our sense of humor about us as well, even as we try for readings as ambitious as the novel clearly is. We need to meditate on the irony that Pynchon's deepest exploration of aging and mortality may be also the novel whose humor is freest and most liberated, the book in which Pynchon is able to satirize most trenchantly those personal and artistic traits---creative paranoia and a mania for invisibility---for which he is most notorious.

Most tellingly, we need to reflect on the paradox that Pynchon may have written his most prophetic work by taking his furthest leap back in time, writing an historical novel that problematizes more profoundly than any of his other works what it means to "write" history or measure how history writes us, which includes the study how others have been written in or out as agents of history. Pynchon in Mason and Dixon discovers the sources of the postmodern in the contradictions of the Enlightenment as lived by his two intrepid surveyors and tragicomic antiheroes.

Instead of further "conclusions" I offer below some questions and topics for further thought directly relevant to the issues I have raised here:

May these topics act as vortices helping to spin off other readers' further explorations.

I also offer a map of the "Arc Corner"/"Post Marked West" sites, for those who might visit.

Note also that an on-line concordance to Mason and Dixon is being assembled. (check out the various Pynchon sites gathered in Yahoo or elsewhere, including the Pomona Pynchon pages).

Some questions for further work on Mason & Dixon:

---Do readers agree with my observations in the first half of this essay about the boundaries of the Eliza Fields narrative, chapters 53-54? Are there other later or earlier references to her adventures in the novel? What is the overall relevance of the Captive's Tale for the novel?

---What is the function of the "oölite prisms" carefully placed along the Line after it is surveyed and cut? How should we interpret Captain Zhang's reading of the reason for their presence? And how should we read the passage on p. 547 contrasting their internal structure with that of the stone in the Egyptian pyramids?

---What is the best history of the Calendar Reform of 1752, in which England and its colonies (among other countries) converted from the Julian to the Gregorian calendar? We should compare such a history with Pynchon's own reading of its significance in Mason and Dixon. Also, how should we relate the "eleven lost days" references to the rest of the novel? As another instance of narrative vortices, of lost and suppressed history, not to mention that gap between "scientific" and institutionally validated ways of ordering the world vs. more ancient and oral traditions, as I have suggested here? Copies of various Acts of Parliament concerning "Calendar Reform" were available in the American colonies, including the following. If Pynchon explored any of these texts, he might very well have been interested in the references below to "poor Job" and "Sufferings"---allusions that need expert commentary. Note also the anti-calendar ballad from 1752.

TITLE Act for Regulating the Commencement of the Year; and for
Correcting the Calendar Now in Use.
TITLE At the Parliament begun and holden at Westminster, the tenth day of November, anno Dom. 1747, in the twenty first year of the
reign of our Sovereign Lord George the Second, by the grace of
God, of Great Britain, France and Ireland, King, Defender of
the Faith, &c.;And from thence continued by several
prorogations to the seventeenth day of January, 1750 [1751, new
style], being the fourth session of this present Parliament.
An act for regulating the commencement of the
year; and for correcting the calender [sic] now in use.
PUBLISHER Boston: : Printed and sold by S. Kneeland and T. Green, by order of His Honour the lieutenant governour, Council and House of Representatives., 1751.
TITLE An Almanack of almanacks, collected from Poor Job, and others.
For the year of our Lord 1752. ... [microform] : With a small
allowance fitted for the province of Massachusetts-Bay, New-Hampshire, Rhode-Island, and Connecticut. : With an abstract of the act of the Parliament of Great-Britain, for regulating the
commencement of the year, and for correcting the calender [sic] now in use.
PUBLISHER Boston: : Printed and sold by Fowle in Queen-Street., [1751]
DESCRIPT [24] p. ; 17 cm. (12mo)
SUBJECT Calendar, Julian.
Calendar, Gregorian.
NOTE The calendar pages are adapted from those of: Poor Job, 1752. An
almanack ... Newport : James Franklin. The calculations are
identical, the aspects column is omitted, and one of tides is
inserted. The eclipse page is also identical in content.

AUTHOR London Yearly Meeting (Society of Friends)
TITLE To the Quarterly and Monthly Meetings of Friends in Great
-Britain, Ireland, and America. [microform]
PUBLISHER [Philadelphia? : s.n., 1751?]
DESCRIPT 4 p. ; 33 cm. (fol.)
SUBJECT Calendar, Gregorian. Months. Days.
SERIES Early American imprints. First series ; no. 6671.
NOTE On the adoption of the Gregorian Calendar in Great Britain.
Caption title.
NOTE On the adoption of the Gregorian Calendar in Great Britain.
Caption title.
Ascribed to the press of Franklin and Hall by Evans. Miller
rejects the ascription and notes the existence of a number of
different editions.
Signatures: [A]2
"A brief account of the origin of the names of some months of the
year, and of all the days of the week, now customarily and
commonly used."--p. 3-4; "From the Meeting for Sufferings in
London, the sixth day of the seventh month, 1751."

TITLE A New song, on the alteration of the stile: or, The true Briton's
advice to his countrymen. [microform]
PUBLISHER [London? : s.n., 1752?]
DESCRIPT 1 sheet ([1] p.) ; 37 x 12 cm.
SUBJECT Calendar, Gregorian -- Songs and music.
Antisemitism -- Great Britain -- Songs and music.
Great Britain -- Civilization -- Songs and music.
SERIES Early American imprints. First series ; no. 40630.
NOTE Song in seven stanzas criticizing the popularity of French
fashions, the adoption of the Gregorian calendar, and the
Jewish influence in England; first line: O! Britons, O!
Britons, I'll have you be wise.
Although recorded by Bristol, probably an English imprint. The
only known copy, held by the American Antiquarian Society, is
dated in ms.: 1752.
Printed area measures 33.5 x 9.0 cm.
REFERENCE Bristol B1582.
Shipton and Mooney 40630.
NOTE Microopaque. Worcester, Mass. : American Antiquarian Society,
1955-1983. 23 x 15 cm. (Early American imprints. First series.

Perhaps also relevant is a more recent text:

AUTHOR Stiles, Meredith Newcomb, 1880-
TITLE The world's work and the calendar: telling the story of the
evolution of the Julian-Gregorian calendar, of how it failed to
anticipate the needs of a changed civilization, and of the
international undertaking to improve it / by Meredith N. Stiles
PUBLISHER Boston : R. G. Badger, [c1933]
DESCRIPT 181 p. : illus., diagrs. ; 20 cm.
SUBJECT Calendar.

---What is the best history of eighteenth-century astronomical and surveying theory and practice, which readers can consult as a way of measuring Pynchon's portrayal of the sciences in Mason and Dixon ? No doubt some day we will have editions of this novel as richly annotated and illustrated with the arcana of these disciplines as current editions of Moby-Dick may be graced with histories of whaling. One elementary introduction to surveying instruments and history:

AUTHOR Kiely, Edmond Richard, 1899-
TITLE Surveying instruments, their history and classroom use.
PUBLISHER New York, Bureau of Publications, Teachers College, Columbia
Univ., 1947.
DESCRIPT 411 p. illus., diagrs. 24 cm.
SUBJECT Surveying -- Instruments.
SERIES Yearbook (National Council of Teachers of Mathematics) 19.
Thesis--Columbia University.
Bibliography: p.377-396.

---Longitude. Longitude lines were much more difficult to "map" because they are vertical, measuring E/W positioning; they cannot be measured using the rising and fall arc of a star's motion, as latitude lines can. (Latitude lines run E/W but of course measure N/S---that is, one's position between a pole and the equator.) Both latitude and longitude needed to be known to create an Eighteenth-century "global positioning system" for use by mariners, land colonists, etc etc., and there was a huge prize for the taking in the 18th century (as Pynchon alludes to) for solving how to measure longitude accurately.

In researching latitude and longitude problems as they relate to Enlightment science, the place to start is Dava Sobel and William J. Andrews's The Illustrated Longitude (New York: Walker, 1998). (An earlier edition of the book is: Longitude: The True Story of a Lone Genius Who Solved the Greatest Scientific Problem of His Time [New York: Viking/Penguin, 1996]). The "genius" referred to is John Harrison (1693-1776).


---Can someone collate & research all the references in the novel to the "Ghastly Fop" tales (of which Eliza Field's "Captive's Tale" is apparently one)? Is this figure indeed an invention of Pynchon's? What are analogs for this kind of literature in eighteen-century popular culture, possible sources of inspiration for Pynchon here? Might the "Ghastly Fop" narratives in fact be an alternative narrative line that constantly threatens to usurp the primacy of the Reverend Cherrycoke's narrative? Consider pp. 117 and 527ff., to pick just a few examples. There may be some precedents for Pynchon's play with the genres of fop, nun, and captivity tales in the works of Aphra Behn (1640-89), which remained popular in the eighteenth century- -works such as "The town-fop; or Sir Timothy Tawdrey," "The adventure of the Black lady," "The unfortunate happy lady: a true history of the nun; or, The fair vow-breaker," "The nun; or The perjur'd beauty," and "The dumb virgin; or, The impious vow punish'd."

---What histories of the Jesuits will be most revealing to readers of this novel? Here are several, based on a preliminary search emphasizing earlier sources:

AUTHOR La Poterie, abbe de, 1751-ca. 1826.
TITLE The resurrection of Laurent Ricci; or, A true and exact history
of the Jesuits. [microform]
PUBLISHER Printed in Philadelphia, : [s.n.], 1789. (Price half-a-dollar.)
DESCRIPT vi, [1], 8-28 p. ; 18 cm. (12mo)
AUTHOR Steinmetz, Andrew, 1816-1877.
TITLE History of the Jesuits : from the foundation of their society to
its suppression by Pope Clement XIV.; their missions throughout
the world; their educational system and literature; with their
revival and present state.
PUBLISHER London, 1848.
AUTHOR Nicolini, Giovanni Battista.
TITLE History of the Jesuits: their origin, progress, doctrines, and
designs / By G. B. Nicolini.
PUBLISHER London and New York : G. Bell and Sons, 1893.

---Regarding the Chinese concepts of Feng Shui, Shan, and Sha, how might we compare Pynchon's use of these concepts with their currency in contemporary pop culture? (American bookstores in the 1990s commonly have several shelves devoted to turning Feng Shui into the latest American self-help fad.) Here are several recent titles that Pynchon may have consulted:

AUTHOR Lip, Evelyn.
TITLE Feng shui : a layman's guide to Chinese geomancy / Evelyn Lip.
EDITION 2nd ed.
PUBLISHER Union City, CA : Heian International, 1989.
AUTHOR Eitel, Ernest John, 1838-1908.
TITLE Feng shui, or, The rudiments of natural science in China / E. J.
Eitel ; with photographs by Ernst Borschmann ; [foreword by
John Michell]
EDITION [3rd ed.]
PUBLISHER Bristol [Eng.] : Pentacle Books, 1979.
AUTHOR Eitel, Ernest John, 1838-1908.
TITLE Feng-shui : the science of sacred landscape in old China / Ernest
J. Eitel ; with commentary by John Michell.
EDITION 5th ed.
PUBLISHER London : Synergetic Press, 1985.
AUTHOR Rossbach, Sarah.
TITLE Feng shui : the Chinese art of placement / Sarah Rossbach.
EDITION 1st ed.
PUBLISHER New York : Dutton, c1983.
AUTHOR Skinner, Stephen, 1948-
TITLE The living earth manual of feng-shui : Chinese geomancy / Stephen
PUBLISHER London : Arkana, 1989, c1982.


---How to investigate 18th-century descriptions of Native American cultures, including Indian Mounds? One source: Thomas Jefferson's Notes on the State of Virginia, which includes meditations on "Old World" vs. "New World" cultures, etc.

---Are Pynchon's portraits of Indian Mounds also parodies of the "orgone boxes" of Wilhelm Reich that were once popular, especially among the Beats and their followers, including William S. Burroughs? Reich believed his boxes created "negative entropy," a concept that no doubt caught Pynchon's amused imagination when he first encountered it. These boxes are similarly layered and were also usually described as "accumulators" of mysterious energies, as are both Mound and Book in Mason and Dixon. This may be yet another example of how Pynchon finds antecedents in the eighteenth century for the obsessions of post-war American pop culture. Note: what is the relationship between Wilhelm Reich and Norman O. Brown? Brown's theories of eros vs. thanatos (published in the late '50s and early '60s) are an important influence on Gravity's Rainbow, especially its representation of "The Counterforce"---and are themselves indebted to Freud, especially Freud's Civilization and its Discontents.

Good comic reading on Reich's orgone boxes is provided by the following:

AUTHOR Reich, Wilhelm, 1897-1957.
TITLE The discovery of the orgone.
PUBLISHER New York : Orgone instute press, [1948- ]
DESCRIPT v. : plates (1 col.) diagrs. ; 24 cm.
CONTENTS v. 1--The function of the orgasm; sex-economic problems of
biological energy; 2d. ed.--v. 2. The cancer biopathy.
NOTE Each volume has special t.-p.
Translated by Theodore P. Wolfe.
ALT. ENTRY Wolfe, Theodore P. (Theodore Peter), 1902-1954 tr.
ALT. TITLE The functions of the orgasm.
AUTHOR Bean, Orson.
TITLE Me and the orgone. Introd. by A. S. Neill.
PUBLISHER New York, St. Martin's Press [c1971]
DESCRIPT viii, 119 p. 22 cm.
SUBJECT Orgonomy.