Chaos Imagined: Literature, Art, Science

Hardcover | January 5, 2016

byMartin Meisel

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The stories we tell in our attempt to make sense of the world-our myths and religion, literature and philosophy, science and art-are the comforting vehicles we use to transmit ideas of order. But beneath the quest for order lies the uneasy dread of fundamental disorder. True chaos is hard to imagine and even harder to represent. In this book, Martin Meisel considers the long effort to conjure, depict, and rationalize extreme disorder, with all the passion, excitement, and compromises the act provokes.

Meisel builds a rough history from major social, psychological, and cosmological turning points in the imagining of chaos. He uses examples from literature, philosophy, painting, graphic art, science, linguistics, music, and film, particularly exploring the remarkable shift in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries from conceiving of chaos as disruptive to celebrating its liberating and energizing potential. Discussions of Sophocles, Plato, Lucretius, Calderon, Milton, Haydn, Blake, Faraday, Chekhov, Faulkner, Wells, and Beckett, among others, are matched with incisive readings of art by Brueghel, Rubens, Goya, Turner, Dix, Dada, and the futurists. Meisel addresses the revolution in mapping energy and entropy and the manifold effect of thermodynamics. He then uses this chaotic frame to elaborate on purpose, mortality, meaning, and mind.

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The stories we tell in our attempt to make sense of the world-our myths and religion, literature and philosophy, science and art-are the comforting vehicles we use to transmit ideas of order. But beneath the quest for order lies the uneasy dread of fundamental disorder. True chaos is hard to imagine and even harder to represent. In th...

Martin Meisel is Brander Matthews Professor of Dramatic Literature Emeritus at Columbia University. He is the author of Shaw and the Nineteenth-Century Theater and Realizations: Narrative, Pictorial, and Theatrical Arts of the Nineteenth Century.

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Format:HardcoverDimensions:608 pages, 9.25 × 6.12 × 0.98 inPublished:January 5, 2016Publisher:Columbia University PressLanguage:English

The following ISBNs are associated with this title:

ISBN - 10:023116632X

ISBN - 13:9780231166324

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Table of Contents

List of IllustrationsO. Uncertainty and Complexity: An Untethered Epilogue After Entropy Incompleteness and Incongruity The Message of the Quantum Lost Horizons Chaos Everywhere Looking Askance Chaosmos1. Shaping Chaos2. Nothing and Something Something out of Nothing? Nothing in Something "The Nurse of Becoming" Saying Nothing Nothing as Nothing The Middle of Nowhere Positive Negation3. Number: The One and the Many Division and Multiplication Sophocles' Thought Experiment Imagining the Worst Taking the Measure One World or Many? "Number-Worlds" A Glance Into the Abyss Truth and Poetry Sightlines Everything by One and One4. Carnival Monstrous Confusion Going to the Fair Dreamworks Lords of Misrule Parody Refram'd The Wild God5. War Representation Conscripting War Emblematics Condition Soldiers and Peasants: Callot Goya's Nightmare Dix and the Chaos Within Consummation Managing the Chaos The Fog of Battle Armageddon and Apocalypse6. Energy Matter in Motion (Inertia, Friction, Noise) Statics and Dynamics The Homeostatic Universe Friction and Noise Nebular Hypotheses Energy Unbound Wirrwarr Petrific Chaos Energy's Epic Energy's Image Postlude: Energy's Acolytes7. Entropy Time and Tide Conservation and Convertibility Double-Entry Physics The Death of the Universe Ancestral Voices A Question of Time A Sense of Direction Second Thoughts Tristes Entropics Nature Decay'd Chekhov's Fiddle Entartung Zola's Fevers Vox clamantis Anarchy and Endgame Resistance and Complementarity Beckett and the Shape of Chaos Sights and Sounds8. Coda, or Da capo al fineNotesBibliographyIndex

Editorial Reviews

[An] ambitious multidisciplinary work.