The University of Texas at Austin

Law in Popular Culture collection

Oklahoma City University Law Review
Volume 24, Number 3 (1999)
reprinted by permission Oklahoma City University Law Review



     Although many studies address the epistemological implications of Oedipa Maas' search for the Tristero in The Crying of Lot 49, few address the legal motivations behind that search. This Article reads Oedipa's responsibilities as the executrix of Pierce Inverarity's estate in relation to the legal theories of J.M. Balkin and Boaventure de Souza Santos. It argues that Oedipa's attempt to bring coherence to Inverarity's "tangled estate" leads her to an understanding of her subjective role in establishing legal coherence, and to a cartographic vision of the law in keeping with postmodern theories of space and geography.

     Pynchon's The Crying of Lot 491 dramatizes two epistemological transformations associated with a "postmodern turn" in jurisprudential and legal theory. First, through its portrayal of a central character engaged in hermeneutic reconstruction of a legal object, Pynchon's novel foregrounds what J.M. Balkin has identified as the often neglected, but essential, role of the subject in legal understanding.2 Oedipa Maas' search for the truth behind the Tristero System revealed in Pierce Inverarity's legal estate can be read as a demonstration of the extent to which, according to Balkin, legal coherence is a hermeneutic rather than a pre-existent feature of the law, where coherence and incoherence depend upon "features of the self."3 Second, the novel's culminating vision of Inverarity's estate as bounded only by the geographic limits of America itself provides a reflection of 


Boaventura de Souza Santos' theory of a "symbolic cartography of law."4 In light of her legal objectives, Oedipa's geographic wanderings through southern California prompt an awareness of what Santos calls "legal pluralism," or the "conception of different legal spaces superimposed, interpenetrated, and mixed in our minds as much as in our actions ...."5 Oedipa's speculative hypothesis that Inverarity's estate, shot through with clues about the Tristero, is in fact the legacy of America itself, becomes grounds for considering symbolic cartography as a "sociological attempt toward [developing a postmodern conception of law."6
     In the two-part analysis which follows, I attempt a reading of The Crying of Lot 49 which demonstrates how a failure to achieve legal coherence through rational reconstruction can lead to awareness of the law as a cartographic projection of social reality. In establishing this theoretical connection, I rely on a notion of "legal fetishism"--a term I borrow from Santos,7 but which I believe also connotes Balkin's concern with a fallacious conception of legal coherence as the exclusive property of a textual object called "law." In the first part of my study, I develop the idea of legal fetishism as a paradigm for explaining Oedipa's understanding of her duties as "executrix" of Inverarity's estate. Oedipa fetishizes the clues about a Tristero conspiracy embedded within the estate such that they both signify and deny her ability to reconstruct it as a coherent legal object. This fetishization occurs as a result of her desire to verify objective reality beyond the solipsistic tower in which she feels herself trapped--a project which veils, like many conventional theories of legal coherence, according to Balkin, the role of the subject in legal understanding. While conducting the search for the Tristero, however, Oedipa is forced into a new view of her legal responsibilities by becoming aware of her own role in projecting and establishing the Tristero's meaning. This demystification results in Oedipa's final inability to choose, rationally, between coherence as a purely objective property of the estate and the Tristero, or the result of Oedipa's subjective paranoia.


     In the second part of my analysis, I argue that Oedipa's inability to negotiate a middle path between these binary possibilities suggests the limitations of her rational understanding of law and its relationship to reality. Santos' idea of legal fetishism is visible in Oedipa's striving toward a point-for-point correspondence between the legal object and objective reality. Eventually, the sheer ubiquity of Tristero clues makes legal coherence in this sense an all-or-nothing proposition: either Inverarity's legacy corresponds to that of America itself, with the Tristero as its vast underworld of the disinherited, or it is merely one among a host of legacies whose only "rational" coherence depends on the "perversity" of a single subject. Yet as an alternative to these possibilities, Oedipa's sympathetic identification with the disadvantaged leads her to project a map of America and the estate which suggests the power of a symbolic cartography of law. Here, the relationship between the legal estate and social reality escapes the problematic of one-to-one correspondence--a necessary first step in what Santos sees as the postmodern transition away from the "symbolic aura" of maximal law. Instead, the Tristero becomes an imaginative tool for scaling and modelling reality sympathetically, such that the socially disadvantaged, invisible under the assumptions of legal fetishism, become the primary focus of attention.
     It may already be apparent, given this introduction, that I do not intend to offer a rigorous theoretical justification for my pairing of the work of Balkin and Santos in the context of contemporary jurisprudential theory. Rather, my elaboration of the idea of legal fetishism is an attempt to chart a movement through Pynchon's novel whose epistemological implications are, I believe, suggestive of recent trends in postmodern legal theory. It is of course true that these epistemological shifts might be charted without reference to legal theoretical paradigms; indeed, this has been by far the more common critical path through the novel. Yet it is for precisely this reason that I seek to draw out the ramifications of Oedipa's quest in light of the legal responsibility which animates it--an aspect backgrounded, if not ignored, in previous critical accounts of Pynchon's novel.


     Balkin argues for increased attention to subjectivity when analyzing the interpretive character of law. The crucial role played by the subject in legal understanding has traditionally been neglected, according to Balkin, resulting in conventional notions of legal coherence as a pre-existing feature of an autonomous object. This critical blindspot has prevented 


recognition of the equal partnership of subject and object in constructing a rational legal system.8 To counteract this misconception, Balkin proposes the use of ideological critique to reflect on the subject's experience of law and legal understanding.
     The value of ideological critique stems from its ability to foreground three effects of subjectivity on legal understanding ignored in conventional theories: first, subjects bring purposes to their understanding of the law; second, legal coherence or incoherence depends in part on aspects of the subjective self; and third, legal understanding is a source of power over the subject.9 Balkin uses these three aspects to define two among a host of possible interpretive attitudes taken by subjects toward the law. The first of these, called rational reconstruction, describes the process of attempting to understand and defend the law for the purpose of a specific application; legal coherence is the successful result of this process. The second interpretive attitude, called rationaldeconstruction, is the process by which a subject examines the law critically in order to locate its various anomalies and inadequacies relative to a specific purpose. For Balkin, the "key question" in considering the likelihood of successful rational reconstruction is "whether an individual has an 'ontological stake' in the coherence of the legal system, a particular set of legal doctrines, or a particular political or moral theory she believes is embodied in the law."10
     On the first page of The Crying of Lot 49, Oedipa Maas is faced with the legal responsibility of acting as "executrix" of the estate of Pierce Inverarity, a former lover and real estate tycoon. That responsibility is "more than honorary" due to the numerous and tangled nature of Inverarity's assets, which must be sorted out into a coherent estate. In the plot which ensues, Oedipa never engages in any direct interrogation of the law that could be read as rational reconstruction or deconstruction; but the process by which she attempts to sort out Inverarity's estate nonetheless betrays a specific interpretive attitude toward the legal object she pursues. I want to call this attitude "legal fetishism," and to use the term as a means of drawing a parallel between what Balkin sees as a phenomenon in conventional theories of legal coherence, and what Oedipa takes as her subjective purpose in accepting her legal responsibility.


     I borrow the term "legal fetishism" from Santos, who does not explicitly define it. In the context of his argument, it connotes the ideological tendency to defer to state or "maximal" law as if it corresponded to social reality at every level, despite its inability to register illegal or nonlegal emancipatory practices.11 While I will return to this issue of correspondence in the second part of my analysis, I want to define Oedipa's personal brand of "legal fetishism" somewhat differently, with reference to recent cross-disciplinary accounts of the fetish as the embodiment of social or psychological disavowal.
     Fetishism in theory is most often associated with the work of Marx and Freud. For Marx, commodity fetishism12 names the process by which the social character of human labour is mystified under capitalism and perceived by the labourer only in "the fantastic form of a relation between things." The commodified product is converted into a "social hieroglyphic" through its exchange-value relative to other products--a form of value that depends upon and conceals the reduction of private, individual acts of labour to a common denominator of abstract human labour-power.13 For Freud, by contrast, fetishism 14 is a complex male strategy for rendering women tolerable as sexual objects. The fetish, in this context, is an object which allays the male's fear of castration through its ability to serve as a symbolic substitute for the woman's "missing" phallus. In this role, sexual fetishism becomes evidence of the psychic operation of disavowal, or the unconscious compromise reached by the male between the "unwelcome perception" that women do not have a penis, and the "force of his counter-wish" that she possess one.15
     Recent work which seeks to find a conceptual common ground between Marxian and Freudian formulations of fetishism has focused on the notion of disavowal as essential to the process of fetishization on both a psychic and social level. Lorraine Gamman and Merja Makinen, in their attempt to tie fetishism to predominantly female eating disorders,16 locate disavowal 


as the common process linking Freud, Marx, and earlier anthropological accounts of fetishistic behaviour. It is this link which allows Gamman and Makinen to define fetishism in general as "a displacement of meaning through the synecdoche, the displacement of the object of desire onto something else through processes of disavowal."17 Similarly, Laura Mulvey defines fetishism as "a psychological and social structure that disavow[s knowledge in favour of belief."18 The fetish therefore serves both to signify a state of lack, and to deny it by acting as a substitutive supplement. This process of disavowal, indicative of fetishism in its various registers, also lies at the root of what Balkin describes as the typical inability of jurisprudential theory to recognize the role of the subject in legal understanding.
     Balkin's characterization of the shortcomings of conventional accounts of legal understanding suggest a fetishization of the law as object such that the subject, though necessary to the interpretive framework, is introduced only to be "sheltered" and hidden away from critical inspection. Indeed, Balkin's description of this phenomenon is laced with phrasing that suggests a critical account of the legal object that makes coherence dependent on the disavowal of legal subjectivity. To take only one example, Ronald Dworkin's theory of law as integrity, which attempts to explain the subjective experience of judicial decision-making, paradoxically "depends on making the contributions of subjectivity invisible to the discourse of jurisprudence."19 This phenomenon has its ideological underpinnings in what Balkin calls projection, or "the attribution of features of the self to the objects of understanding."20 The end result is a reification of the law as a "sufficient," autonomous object, which manifests legal coherence through the supplemental (but veiled) incorporation of subjective traits.
  But how does this relate to Oedipa? I want to suggest that Oedipa's reasons for accepting her legal responsibilities translate this theoretical blindspot into an unconscious interpretive attitude toward the law. To put it another way, Oedipa takes as her purpose in understanding Inverarity's estate the erasure of her own subjective participation in meaning-construction. Oedipa is no legal theorist, of course; but she uses her role as executor of Inverarity's estate as a means of piecing together a picture of 


the world that will prove its essential reality beyond her own perceptual limitations. The fulfillment of her duties will result in a legal object whose coherence will establish the objective reality of a world beyond the "tower" in which she feels trapped. Accordingly, she fetishizes the clues about a Tristero conspiracy embedded within the estate on two levels: first, they become a substitutive stand-in for Oedipa's active participation in bringing about the estate's legal coherence; and second, they function as the link between the estate and the larger sphere of social reality, the existence of which she hopes to establish. In the latter case, Oedipa's unconscious legal fetishism also manifests the assumption of a one-to-one correspondence between legal and social objects discussed by Santos.
      The "ontological stakes" underlying Oedipa's interpretive attitude are suggested early on. Before deciding to go ahead with the execution of Inverarity's will, Oedipa meets to discuss the matter with her somewhat fatuous lawyer, Roseman. After listening to the list of duties expected of her as executor, Oedipa is enticed into accepting them by Roseman's suggestion of a possible discovery arising out of the work ahead.21 As the reader is informed, however, what Oedipa will eventually find out has little to do either with herself or Inverarity but instead with a the epistemological implications of a specific moment in their past relationship. That moment is Oedipa's encounter, in Mexico, with Remedios Varo's Bordando el Manto Terrestre. This painting depicts a prison tower containing three captive maidens engaged in weaving an elaborate tapestry, the folds of which, spilling out the tower windows, come to constitute the outer world. For Oedipa, the image is significant because it confirms what she imagines to be the "Rapunzel-like role" she plays with Inverarity:
She had looked down at her feet and known, then, because of a painting, that what she stood on had only been woven together a couple thousand miles away in her own tower, was only by accident known as Mexico, and so Pierce had taken her away from nothing, there'd been no escape.22
Oedipa's decision to execute Inverarity's will stems from a desire to thwart the "malignant magic" which keeps her confined in her solipsistic prison. 


This becomes clear after her first adulterous meeting with another lawyer, Metzger:
If one object behind her discovery of what she was to label the Tristero System or often only The Tristero (as if it might be something's secret title) were to bring to an end her encapsulation in her tower, then that night's infidelity with Metzger would logically be the starting point for it [....]23
     Oedipa's comic seduction by/of Metzger initiates Oedipa's projection, in Balkin's sense, of her own subjective role in legal understanding onto the Tristero problematic. This fetishistic projection is dramatically revealed in her portrayal of the Tristero as a seductive stage performance for which she is merely an audience:
    So began, for Oedipa, the languid, sinister blooming of The Tristero. Or rather, her attendance at some unique performance, prolonged as if it were the last of the night, something a little extra for whoever'd stayed this late. As if the breakaway gowns, net bras, jeweled garters and G-strings of historical figuration that would fall away were layered dense as Oedipa's own streetclothes in that game with Metzger in front of the Baby Igor movie; as if a plunge toward dawn indefinite black hours long would indeed be necessary before The Tristero could be revealed in its terrible nakedness.24
The object of Oedipa's search is here twinned with her own objectified body. The fetishes which adorn this body--the clues about a Tristero conspiracy--serve both to signify and deny Oedipa's subjective involvement in the process of stripping it/herself to "nakedness." So veiled, the Tristero becomes figured as the bodily projection of a transcendant Word that will guarantee the coherence of the estate independent of subjective interpretation. Later, Oedipa will articulate this relationship in the language of fetishistic compensation: "she wondered if the gem-like 


'clues' were only some kind of compensation. To make up for her having lost the direct, epileptic Word, the cry that might abolish the night."25
     As the Tristero "blooms," however, Oedipa becomes unable to deny the possibility that the entire conspiracy may be, like the embroidered tapestry of the Varo painting, only the defining "outside" of her perceptual prison. It is her meeting with Randolph Driblette, director of the The Courier's Tragedy, who emphasizes the necessity of the human mind for animating the "traces" and "fossils" of historical texts. His identification of himself as the "projector at the planetarium"26 leads Oedipa to recognize, in part, her own projection of herself onto the textual fragments of Inverarity's estate. Accordingly, her conception of her legal responsibilities changes:
If it was really Pierce's attempt to leave an organized something behind after his own annihilation, then it was part of her duty, wasn't it, to bestow life on what had persisted, to try to be what Driblette was, the dark machine in the centre of the planetarium, to bring the estate into pulsing stelliferous Meaning, all in a soaring dome around her? If only so much didn't stand in her way: her deep ignorance of law, of investment, of real estate, ultimately of the dead man himself [....] Under the symbol she'd copied off the latrine wall of The Scope into her memo book, she wrote Shall I project a world?27
Implied in this final question is a partial demystification of Oedipa's earlier fetishism of the Tristero clues. Her acknowledgement of her ignorance about law suggests a willingness to take responsibility for the legal object she constructs.
     Yet if Oedipa seems intent on shedding her earlier interpretive attitude, the remainder of her quest does not go very far toward revealing Balkin's ideal of subject and object as "equal partners" in constituting legal understanding. This is because Oedipa grows more and more suspicious that the estate may be using her own epistemological tools against her--an ideological "sensitizing" she finds threatening rather than illuminating. Consequently, the two propositions supported by her fetishization of the Tristero clues (that the Tristero is simultaneously a confirmation of "objective" reality, and her own construction of that reality) are split apart 


to form a binary opposition. This mutual exclusivity is most pronounced in the symmetrical four alternatives Oedipa posits as explanations for the Tristero: either she has stumbled upon a real underground communication system, or she has hallucinated such a system, or an elaborate plot has been devised to deceive her, or she has imagined such a plot.28 According to Oedipa, legal coherence, or the "life" attributed to the legal object, is the sole property either of the object itself, or of the subject perceiving it--never a combination of both. Pynchon's novel ends by dramatizing the extent to which "aspects of the self" influence success or failure in achieving legal coherence, but it provides no neat affirmation of rational reconstruction. Instead, it demonstrates that a subject's "ontological stakes" in the pursuit of legal coherence can lead to more than one version of coherence for the same legal object, while deconstructing the grounds for choosing between them.


     To call attention to Oedipa's failed quest as a commentary on her epistemological methodology reflects a common critical conclusion about Pynchon's novel. The polarization of Oedipa's explanatory options at the end of the book has often been read as Pynchon's indictment of binary or categorical thinking.29 But less often commented upon is the symbolic map of Inverarity's "legacy America" through which Oedipa attempts to reconcile her mutually exclusive explanations. While brooding over her symmetry of choices, Oedipa's spatial imagination leads her to that strange cartographic vertigo whereby, according to many theorists of postmodern geography, knowledge of the local overlaps and simulates knowledge of the global:
If San Narciso and the estate were really no different from any other town, any other estate, then by that continuity she might have found The Tristero anywhere in her Republic, through any of a 

hundred lightly-concealed entranceways a hundred alienations, if only she'd looked. She stopped a minute between the steel rails, raising her head as if to sniff the air. Becoming conscious of the hard, strung presence she stood on--knowing as if maps had been flashed for her on the sky how these tracks ran on into others, others, knowing they laced, deepened, authenticated the great night around her. If only she'd looked.30
Jeffrey Louis Decker reads this image as an example of what Fredric Jameson calls 'cognitive mapping,' a distinctively postmodern strategy whereby Oedipa learns to "better understand her place within the global system of multinational capitalism ...."31 In the context of her legal objectives, this strategic mapping may also suggest the rudiments of Santos' postmodern symbolic cartography of law.
     Santos constructs his symbolic cartography as a means of resisting the conventional assumption that the relationship between law and society is necessarily founded on correspondence or lack of correspondence.32 Instead, he proposes a social/legal relation analogous to that between map and spatial reality: law, like a map, distorts reality through the cartographic mechanisms of scale, projection, and symbolization.33 Scale refers to the necessary filtering of details relative to a law's purpose, which is to establish its exclusivity over a given practice. Santos identifies three different legal spaces, corresponding to the scales of local, national, and world legality, each of which creates "different legal objects upon eventually the same social objects."34 Projection addresses law's distortion of reality around a privileged center or position, defining other spaces in relation to itself. According to Santos, the privileged center within the modernist period is the space of national or state law, the ideological hegemony of which contributes to legal fetishism:
Because people are permanently (even if inconsistently) socialized and acculturated in the types of scale, projection, and symbolization that are characteristic of the national state legal 

order, they refuse to recognize as legal those normative orders that use different scales, projections, and symbolizations. They are beyond the minimum and the maximum threshold of legal cognition.35
A postmodern conception of law subverts legal fetishism by substituting a new legal minimalism which recognizes the interpenetration of different legal orders as one moves from the center to the periphery of conventional maps of legal reality.36 Presumably then symbolization, or the graphic rendering of reality-features, reflects this shift through its use of signs indicating multiple legal "realities," demystifying the "symbolic aura" of state law as only one among a number of legal-symbolic constructions.
     In relying on spatial metaphors as a means of characterizing a postmodern transition, Santos is by no means alone. Over the last decade various notions of "postmodern geography" have been used to chart shifts from a historical modernism to a spatial postmodernism. Many such models support the idea, central to Santos' symbolic cartography, that "[p]ostmodern knowledge is ... local, but being local it is also total."37 Celeste Olalquiaga, for one, describes bodily experience in postmodern urban culture as "a ubiquitous feeling of being in all places while not really being anywhere."38 Edward Soja's description of Los Angeles as a city in which "it all comes together"39 likewise searches for global postmodern trends in a local setting. And Soja himself draws on other theorists for whom the city of Los Angeles, and its architecture, have proven inspirational to their spatial conceptions of the postmodern.40 I mention these trends to suggest that, from a theoretical point of view, Oedipa's geographic location in the Los Angeles area places her on a solid footing for exploring a postmodern transition dependent on spatial forms.


       My present purpose, however, lies in pursuing only the legal valences of such a transition. Toward that end, I will return to my earlier observation that Oedipa's interpretive attitude toward Inverarity's estate entails a second level or degree of legal fetishism. This fetishization stems from Oedipa's implicit belief in the reconstructability of Inverarity's estate as a legal object-text whose coherence consists in its correspondence to a single version of reality. Oedipa's nocturnal journey through San Francisco, and particularly her encounter with the old sailor,41 expose her to the possibility of different versions of that reality; but as Deborah Madsen points out, Oedipa interprets these "versions" as wholly separate and supernatural worlds, such that her conventional view of reality goes unchallenged.42 In this manner, the number of worlds to which her legal construction of the estate might correspond increases, without reflecting on the correspondence paradigm itself. Eventually, this leads to the articulation of coherence as a choice between mutually exclusive alternatives: either the estate is "legacy America," which would explain the fact that "[e]very access route to the Tristero" could be traced back to it;43 or it is only one of countless such estates, in which case its distinction from "just America" is that given solely by Oedipa, "assumed full circle into some paranoia."44 Oedipa is thus guilty of legal fetishism in Santos' sense through her ideological reliance on the "symbolic aura" of maximal law, which enforces a single legal construction of every social object it purports to represent.
     Oedipa's cartographic representation of Inverarity's estate sheds light on a possible way out of this impasse, however. The map itself comes to her as a result of one of her rational hypotheses: if the Tristero were real, then Inverarity's estate would be no different from any other, and knowledge of the Tristero might be discoverable anywhere. In this dismantling of the distinction between local and global knowledge, Oedipa unknowingly fulfills the requirements of her fetishized view of law as correspondence with social reality. She does so in such a way, however, that emphasizes the problems with this relationship between legal and social objects. This is because her constructed legal object matches the social world so closely (indeed, it overlaps it point-for-point) that some of her most important legal 


objectives are rendered impossible. One of these, of course, is her desire to "bring life" to the estate as a coherent legal object. But beyond that, Oedipa has also taken responsibility for the distribution of legacies45--a fact she has not forgotten, judging by the numerous references to legacies and inheritance that punctuate her thoughts in the final pages of the novel. Her inability to fulfill this function is significant in light of the one-to-one correspondence she envisions between legal and social reality:
What would the probate judge have to say about spreading some kind of a legacy among them all, all those nameless, maybe as a first installment? Oboy. He'd be on her ass in a microsecond, revoke her letters testamentary, they'd call her names, proclaim her through all Orange County as a redistributionist and pinko, slip the old man from Warpe, Wistfull, Kubitschek and McMingus in as administrator de bonis non and so much baby for code, constellations, shadow-legatees.46
It is law's inability to circumscribe such emancipatory action once its implied dream of correspondence is revealed that occasions what Santos calls a "gap" in social imagination conducive to a shift toward minimalist conceptions of law.47 The vision of countless legatees left unreachable through the functioning of the law personifies the inability of a "legal monolopy" to register the social needs of those doomed to the periphery by its specific ideological and cartographic projection. Hence, as Santos writes, "since the identification of [legal] limits goes hand in hand with the expansion of the concept of law and its internal fragmentation in a plurality of legal orders, the ideological claim of legal fetishism becomes more untenable and the alternatives to it correspondingly more credible."48 Oedipa's extended meditation on "excluded middles"49 should be read as a first glimpse of that gap in social imagination. Her map helps thwart legal fetishism by dispelling the symbolic aura with which it veils the law's ideological distortion of reality.
     However, a possible objection to this reading can be envisioned at this point. It might be argued that Oedipa's map loses much of its persuasive 


force for encouraging new conceptions of the relationship between social and legal objects given that Oedipa herself does not recognize its import. She remains, after all, committed to finding a rational solution to the problem of correspondence. This view could be buttressed with the help of critical work which takes issue with Oedipa's use of the Tristero legatees as an epistemological "means to an end." Molly Hite, for example, argues that Oedipa's gathering of California's outcasts under the banner of the Tristero Empire causes her to miss the dispossession and alienation that already binds them togethe50 And David Seed finds fault with Oedipa's spatial revelation on rhetorical grounds, arguing that Pynchon risks pushing the reader toward an acceptance of a real Tristero community through an excessively "categorical" tone.51
     But I would respond that it is precisely this rhetoric which signals a transitional--if fleeting--moment in her legal understanding. Oedipa's cartographic awareness that local knowledge has, at least temporarily, become total knowledge, leads her to reflect back on earlier experiences prior to her acceptance of her legal duties. As she casts her attention back over images of squatters in their Pullman cars, children sleeping in junkyards, and wandering drifters on the backroads, the "invisible" America congruent with her own "cheered land"52 takes shape through the sympathy Oedipa feels for these people. Although Oedipa uses the Tristero as a means of gathering these memories together for her own inspection, it is simply not the case, pace Hite, that she thereby ignores the common dispossession that binds them. If anything, the rhetoric of this passage emphasizes the "disinherited" aspect of identification under The Tristero far more than the notion of collective insurgence. The Tristero becomes, for Oedipa, a means of graphically organizing her experience--an imaginative tool for remedying the fact that she had never really "looked" at her world before.
     In this manner, Oedipa's quest constructs its own implicit argument for replacing a rational projection of legal reality with a sympathetic one. It thus serves in part to support the opinion of Robin West that interdisciplinary meetings between law and the humanities would do well to look beyond a commitment to rationality alone when seeking to morally 


evaluate law.53 West's urging of the cultivation of an arational capacity for sympathy speaks directly to the reader of Pynchon's novel:
Our relentless and apparently failed quest for rational knowledge might have blinded us to other ways of knowing .... In other words, the insistence on rational knowledge and, hence, on objects of rational knowledge, may have blinded us to the possibilities within the human spirit for arational and arationally acquired forms of undisciplined knowledge and insight.54
If Oedipa does not recognize the transformative power of sympathy on her legal understanding, the reader nevertheless may.
     From a legal standpoint, Oedipa's cartographic model expresses her capacity to "project a world" in which legal reality is inevitably plural. As such, it marks a crucial first step in breaking down the fearful binarisms to which she is lead by her rational reliance on correspondence as the only possible relationship between social and legal objects. Her vision of two overlapping, congruent Americas offers a vision of interlegality as an intersection of, rather than a choice between, mutually exclusive legal orders.55 Accordingly, it triggers a turn toward a postmodern conception of law through its sympathetic recognition of those relegated to the periphery of modernist, monopolistic legal scaling.



*  Candidate in the doctoral program in English at McGill University.


2. See J.M. Balkin, Understanding Legal Understanding: The Legal Subject and the Problem of Legal Coherence, 103 YALE L.J. 105 (1993).

3. See id. at 112, 139.

4. See Boaventura de Sousa Santos, Law: A Map of Misreading. Toward a Postmodern Conception of Law, 14 J. L. & SOC'Y 297 (1987).

5. Id. at 297-98.

6. Id. at 297.

7. See Boaventura de Sousa Santos, The Postmodern Transition: Law and Politics, in THE FATE OF LAW 79, 116-17 (Austin Sarat & Thomas R. Kearns eds., 1991).

8. See Balkin, supra note 2, at 107.

9. See id. at 112.

10. Id. at 122-26, 146.

11. See Santos, supra note 7, at 116.

12. See 1 KARL MARX, CAPITAL 71-83 (Frederick Engels ed.) (1887).

13. See id. at 72, 74-75.

14. See 21 Sigmund Freud, Fetishism, in THE STANDARD EDITION OF THE COMPLETE PSYCHOLOGICAL WORKS OF SIGMUND FREUD 152-57 (James Strachey et al. eds. & trans., 1962).

15. Id. at 154.


17. Id. at 45.


19. Balkin, supra note 2, at 133-34.

20. Id. at 108.

21. See PYNCHON, supra note 1, at 20.

22. Id. at 21.

23. Id. at 44 (Since Thomas Pynchon is known for his use of the ellipse, the ellipses inserted by the Author are in brackets [....]).

24. Id. at 54.

25. Id. at 118.

26. See id. at 79.

27. Id. at 81-82.

28. See id. at 170-71.

29. See, e.g., Pierre-Yves Petillon, A Re-cognition of Her Errand into the Wilderness, in NEW ESSAYS ON THE CRYING OF LOT 49 143 (Patrick O'Donnell ed., 1991); Mark Conroy, The American Way and Its Double in The Crying of Lot 49, in 24-25 PYNCHON NOTES 45 (1989). Petillon argues that Oedipa's essentially textual "rabbit hole" stems from her Puritan ancestry and 1950s New Critical training, while Conroy attributes Oedipa's versions of "Official" and "Alternative" America to the Cold War mentality of her formative years.

30. PYNCHON, supra note 1, at 179.

31. Jeffrey Louis Decker, "The Enigma His Efforts Had Created": Thomas Pynchon and the Legacy of America, in 28-29 PYNCHON NOTES 38 (1992).

32. See Santos, supra note 4, at 281.

33. See id. at 283-85.

34. Id. at 287.

35. Id. at 298.

36. See Santos, supra note 7, at 105.

37. Id. at 100.


39. See EDWARD W. SOJA, POSTMODERN GEOGRAPHIES: THE REASSERTION OF SPACE IN CRITICAL SOCIAL THEORY 190-221 (1989). Chapter 8 of this book is entitled "It All Comes Together in Los Angeles."

40. See FREDRIC JAMESON, POSTMODERNISM, OR THE CULTURAL LOGIC OF LATE CAPITALISM 39-44 (1991); JEAN BAUDRILLARD, AMERICA 59 (Chris Turner trans.) (1988). Both Jameson and Baudrillard look to Los Angeles' Bonaventure Hotel as expressive of a new architectural attitude toward space.

41. See PYNCHON, supra note 1, at 125-28.


43. PYNCHON, supra note 1, at 170.

44. Id. at 182.

45. See id. at 20.

46. Id. at 181.

47. See Santos, supra note 7, at 116-17.

48. Id. at 116.

49. See PYNCHON, supra note 1, at 181.



52. See PYNCHON, supra note 1, at 179-80.

53. See Robin West, Disciplines, Subjectivity, and Law, in THE FATE OF LAW 119, 150-57 (Austin Sarat & Thomas R. Kearns eds., 1991).

54. Id. at 152.

55. See Santos, supra note 4, at 298.