Filed under book | Tags: · chaos theory, entropy, history of literature, information theory, literary theory, literature, nonlinearity, physics, postmodernism, poststructuralism, science, thermodynamics, writing
“At the same time that the study of nonlinear dynamics came into its own in the sciences, the focus of literary studies shifted toward local, fragmentary modes of analysis in which texts were no longer regarded as deterministic or predictable. N. Katherine Hayles here investigates parallels between contemporary literature and critical theory and the emerging interdisciplinary field known as the science of chaos. She finds in both scientific and literary discourse new interpretations of chaos, which is seen no longer as disorder but as a locus of maximum information and complexity. The new paradigm of chaos includes elements that, Hayles shows, were evident in literary theory and literature before they became prominent in the sciences. She asserts that such similarities between the natural and human sciences are the result not of direct influence but of roots in a common cultural matrix.
Hayles traces the evolution of the concept of chaos and evaluates the work of such theorists as Prigogine, Feigenbaum, and Mandelbrot, for whom chaos entails an unpredictably open universe in which knowledge is limited to local sites and scientific models can never exhaust the possibilities of the actual. But this view does not imply that scientists have given up the search for global explanations of natural phenomena, for chaos is conceived of as containing its own form of order. Hayles envisions chaos as a double-edged sword: it can be viewed either as a recognition that disorder plays a more important role in natural processes than had hitherto been recognized or as an extension of order into areas that had hitherto resisted formalization. She examines structures and themes of disorder in The Education of Henry Adams, Doris Lessing’s Golden Notebook, and works by Stanislaw Lem. Hayles concludes by showing how the writings of poststructuralist theorists incorporate central features of chaos theory-such as an interest in relating local sites to global structures; a conception of order and disorder as interpenetrating rather than opposed; an awareness that in complex systems small causes can lead to massive effects; and an understanding that complex systems can be both deterministic and unpredictable.
Chaos Bound contributes to and enliven current debates among chaos theorists, cultural critics and cultural historians, critical theorists, literary critics interested in nineteenth- and twentieth-century literature, researchers in nonlinear dynamics, and others concerned with the relation between science and culture.” (from the back cover)
Publisher Cornell University Press, 1990
ISBN 0801497019, 9780801497018
Review: Tom LeClair (SubStance, 1991)
See also Hayles, The Cosmic Web: Scientific Field Models and Literary Strategies in the Twentieth Century, 1984.Comment (0)