Reading Gravity’s Rainbow with Paul Saint-Amour | In-Person Course

Date / Time

  • October 8, 2023
    2:00 pm - 4:00 pm
  • October 22, 2023
    2:00 pm - 4:00 pm
  • November 5, 2023
    2:00 pm - 4:00 pm
  • November 19, 2023
    2:00 pm - 4:00 pm
  • December 3, 2023
    2:00 pm - 4:00 pm


2008-2010 Delancey Place, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, 19103, United States

Sponsored by Eleanor and Peter Nalle


  • Tuition for this course is $250. 10% off for Rosenbach members and the Delancey Society. Not a member? Learn more.
  • This course is limited to participants who are 18 years of age or older.
  • Please check your spam folder for your email confirmation. If you have questions, please call (215) 732-1600 or email [email protected].
  • This course meets in person at the Rosenbach once per month. Sessions will NOT be recorded.
  • Registration opens for Delancey Society members on Wednesday, August 16, for Rosenbach members on Wednesday, August 23, and for the general public on Wednesday, August 30.




Gravity’s Rainbow, Thomas Pynchon’s masterpiece, turns 50 this year. The book divided readers from the get-go: the Pulitzer Prize jury recommended it unanimously but the Pulitzer board vetoed the recommendation, awarding no fiction prize for 1973 and calling the novel “turgid,” “unreadable,” and “obscene.” Now’s the time to read or revisit Pynchon’s ludic tome, with its pratfalls and pig costumes, its tales of love and rockets, its scatological sado-masochistic set pieces, and its passages of transcendent lyricism. Over the course of 5 fortnightly meetings, we’ll make our way through the whole enchilada. 

What’s it like? Imagine that Herman Melville had been born in 1937, read Joyce’s Ulysses in a lecture course taught by Vladimir Nabokov at Cornell University, and worked in the aerospace industry while beginning to hand-write novels on graph paper. The Moby-Dick of this latter-day Melville would have been Gravity’s Rainbow. Set during the final months of the Second World War, it’s an encyclopedic meditation on whiteness, war, sex, Psy Ops, plastics, corporate capital, the settler state, integrals, disintegration, and the V-2 rocket. It’s a paranoid disquisition on paranoia, it’s polymorphously perverse, and it’s gorgeous—a strenuous pre-history of the nuclear age and the way we live now. 

Gravity’s Rainbow syllabus

About the instructor 

Paul Saint-Amour is the Walter H. and Leonore C. Annenberg Professor in the Humanities at the University of Pennsylvania and the author, most recently, of Tense Future: Modernism, Total War, Encyclopedic Form (Oxford University Press, 2015) and the co-editor, with Jessica Berman, of the Modernist Latitudes series at Columbia University Press. He has taught several courses at the Rosenbach, including Ulysses, Finnegans Wake and Reading 1922.