Since Pynchon, the postmodern encyclopaedic form has been recognised as possessing an ethical core. Indeed, Gravity's Rainbow was only briefly treated solely as a structure of interminable play and quickly found its place, especially in light of Pynchon's other novels, as a politicised work focusing on the military-industrial complex and contemporary America. It can equally be asserted, though, that the “ethical turn” in literary studies is sited at a specific, historicized moment and is not without its own problems: when we say “ethical”, rather than “moralising”, are we, in fact, merely refusing to recognise the relativity and transitivity of our own moral strictures?
To begin to formulate a less innocent, more experienced, new terminology for this mode, this paper will look at two overloaded works, Thomas Pynchon's Gravity's Rainbow and Roberto Bolaño's 2666. Through an analysis of these immense, torrential novels, I will unearth their inherent didactic function, examine the way in which they conscript our intellectual capital to pre-dispose us towards their ethics and draw out the place of teaching and learning, through the representation of the university and academia, in these texts. It seems to me that the ethical stances of both these texts are important, compassionate and fundamentally correct. This could be, however, because I have been pre-ensnared by their crypto-didactic mode.