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By Martin Meisel

The tales we inform in our try to make experience of the realm, our myths and faith, literature and philosophy, technological know-how and artwork, are the comforting automobiles we use to transmit principles of order. yet underneath the hunt for order lies the uneasy dread of basic ailment. real chaos is difficult to visualize or even tougher to symbolize, specially with out a few recourse to the usual coherency of order. during this e-book, Martin Meisel considers the lengthy attempt to conjure, depict, and rationalize severe ailment, with all of the passions, excitements, and compromises the act has provoked. In seven chapters—“Shaping Chaos,” “Nothing and Something,” “Number,” “Carnival,” “War,” “Energy,” and “Entropy”—Meisel builds a coarse background from significant social, mental, and cosmological turning issues within the imagining of chaos. He makes use of examples from literature, philosophy, portray, photo artwork, technological know-how, linguistics, track, and picture, quite exploring the striking shift within the eighteenth and 19th centuries from conceiving of chaos as disruptive to celebrating its freeing and energizing capability. Discussions of Sophocles, Plato, Lucretius, Calderon, Milton, Haydn, Blake, Faraday, Chekhov, Faulkner, Wells, and Beckett, between others, are matched with incisive readings of artwork by means of Brueghel, Rubens, Goya, Turner, Dix, Dada and the futurists. Meisel addresses the revolution in mapping power and entropy and the manifold effect of thermodynamics. recognized for his pathbreaking experiences of literature, drama, and the visible arts, Meisel makes use of this chaotic body to intricate on higher issues of function, mortality, which means, and brain.

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Additional resources for Chaos Imagined: Literature, Art, Science

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Source: Collection, Library of Congress. 38 SHAPING CHAOS Peckham’s Man’s Rage for Chaos, reversing the classical perspective and arguing that the disruption of forms, conventions, and regularities is the biological function of art, its very reason for being, remains a challenge to an ingrained orthodoxy. In investigating the representation of chaos in and out of art, I do not intend to pursue Peckham’s argument, though I do intend to reverse the usual perspective and treat order as background, the latent presence whose regular outbreak in those same representations can be too insistent to ignore.

Geoffrey Hartman W hat chaos really is, in and of itself, and what sort of figure it truly cuts in the universe at large—an open question—is not something I know how to address. The notion of chaos is a different matter. The notion of chaos in its most general and traditional framing is a limiting case: the extreme of disorder, where all attributes assignable to order vanish. It is disorder made absolute. It follows from a desire to give shape or a name to our perceptions of discontinuity and dissonance, of confusion and incoherence, perhaps to quarantine them from what belongs to symmetry, shapeliness, and consequence.

But also, it appears, there are some things we simply can’t know, or know in the way we would like to, because of features inherent both in the structure of knowledge and in what is out there to be known. As John Horgan observed while reporting on a symposium on the limits of scientific knowledge: “For three days, a score of scientists, mathematicians and philosophers debated whether it might be possible for science to know what it cannot know. ”27 Much of the residue, or what lies beyond the limits, everything that appears intrinsically unknowable or unfathomable, irreconcilable or insoluble, constitutes the last unplumbed reserve of chaos.

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