|THOMAS JACKSON RICE
ULYSSES, CHAOS, AND COMPLEXITY
Pause. J.J. O'Molloy took out his cigarettecase.
False lull. Something quite ordinary.
Messenger took out his matchbox thoughtfully and lit his cigar.
I have often thought since on looking back over that strange time that it was that small act, trivial in itself, that striking of that match, that determined the whole aftercourse of both our lives. (U 7:760-765)
This famous passage from the "Aeolus" episode of _Ulysses_, with its peculiar shifts in time and tone, has provoked its share of commentary, chiefly searches for the source of Joyce's apparent parody of the anachronic conventions of Victorian fiction (in this case a prolepsis, a "flash-forward"). This "Messenger" interpolation, however, has both local and global significance for _Ulysses_, neither of which has received much attention. For example, the fully responsive first-time reader, that ideal creation, would immediately naturalize the narrative's shifts by seeing them as yet another move into Stephen's stream of consciousness. Likewise Stephen, within the passage itself, is defending himself against the seductions of rhetoric, first by preparing to hear "Something quite ordinary" in O'Molloy's rendering of Bushe's "polished periods" (_U_7:747), and then by supplying this "something ordinary": a portentous narrative cliche, its banality reinforced by its awkward style. (The second sentence features six _that_s.)
The re-reader of this brief sequence, however, one who has gained the prospective and retrospective vision that the passage itself illustrates, might notice an emergent pattern in the novel: various "messengers" accost Stephen/Telemachus this morning: the milkwoman/Athena of the first episode (a "messenger from the secret morning" [_U_1:406]), or the sententious Mr. Garrett Deasy, or the _Frauenzimmer_ and cocklepickers of "Proteus." Does Bloom find his place on this list? Indeed, completing the pattern, Bloom's "ignited lucifer match" in "Ithaca" seems, in hindsight, potentially as determined and deterministic as Messenger's "striking of that match"; Leopold becomes the latest entry in Stephen's catalog of significant firelighters (_U_17:131, 135-147).
Yet responses such as these overlook one of the most important features of the Messenger passage: its absolute content. This textual intrusion reminds us of three basic facts of our existence: (1) minute causes can have momentous consequences, (2) events appear to be purely accidental and contingent in the present moment of their occurrence, and (3) these same events, once displaced into the past and reviewed "as in a retrospective arrangement" (_U_14:1044), seem to have been fully deterministic, to have "determined the whole aftercourse of ... our lives." The genre of the novel, like Tom Kernan, has always been "dead nuts" on "_retrospective arrangement_" for its "_trenchant rendering_" of experience (_U_6:147-150). Reading, conversely, is prospective; criticism, however, reverses the orientation once again, replicating the retrospective processes of the book's creation.
The history of _Ulysses_'s reception, for example, clearly shows the critics' reciprocal retrospective assimilation of the apparently contingent details of the novel into deterministic patterns of interpretation. Even more important, I would argue, the Messenger passage offers a strong correlation between our first two "basic facts" of real and fictional existence—that minute causes may have momentous consequences, and that everything in the world of the present, as Wittgenstein would have it, is accidental—and the fundamental premises of chaos theory in contemporary science.
In _Ulysses_ James Joyce uncannily anticipates the perspective of the new chaoticians and shares the metaphysical implications of their worldview. Moreover, understanding _Ulysses_ in light of chaos theory can substantially refine our sense of how the novel should be read and legitimately interpreted. This is not the place for a detailed account of chaos theory; <2> rather, I want to focus simply on three important features of the theory, all accessible to the non-scientist, that have fundamentally altered the way chaoticians approach the study of phenomena as varied as the weather, commodities markets, plate tectonics, evolution, epidemiology, cardiology, populations in ecosystems, the distribution of galaxies, and on and on. These three features are (1) the principle of sensitive dependence and the related role of feedback in dynamic systems, (2) the emphasis on scientific explanation, rather than prediction, and (3) the concept of design, either innate or emergent, in chaotic systems.
I shall also draw correlations to the literary equivalents of these principles in _Ulysses_, not from the conviction that Joyce was intuitively aware of chaos theory some forty years ahead of its earliest developments, but from the realization that, in both _Ulysses_ and _Finnegans Wake_, he anticipates the aim sought by our contemporaries in science: a more accurate picture of the world in all its complexity and apparent randomness. And I shall conclude by suggesting that recent developments in Joyce criticism, and critical theory generally, offer some illuminating parallels to the paradigm shift now occurring in the sciences. <3> The Cartesian-Newtonian worldview pictures the cosmos as driven by rather simple forces, and nearly three centuries of scientists working in the Cartesian tradition have applied their own version of "Occam's razor" to their research: assuming that all phenomena can and will ultimately be understood as the results of simple rules, or laws. <4>
In literary studies the term "convention" has the same force as the "laws" of science, so it seems to be no accident that at the same time as the scientist's conviction of a lawful cosmos weakened at the turn of the century, the writer's adherence to conventions as _absolutes_ began to waver. <5> Nonetheless, still generally confident that all events were reducible to simplicity, scientists until recently routinely ignored those complex phenomena that seemed intractable to mathematical modeling and scientific analysis. For example, consider the entrenched mechanical principle that for every action there is an equal and opposite reaction; two logical consequences of this idea are the assumptions that small causes have small effects and that large causes have large effects. (Test this by striking a billiard ball with a "BB" and then with a bowling ball.) One of the most unsettling early emphases of chaos theory, however, was the study of many actual events in nature where small causes produce enormous consequences. Often, quite minute differences in the initial conditions of a dynamic system, in fact, lead to vast differences over time, differences both unpredictable and apparently unanalyzable.
This principle of sensitive dependence on initial conditions has been nicknamed the "butterfly effect," from the meteorologist Edward Lorenz's description of the dynamics of weather systems, in his 1979 paper entitled: "Predictability: Does the Flap of a Butterfly's Wings in Brazil Set Off a Tornado in Texas?" <6> Unless meteorologists have infinitely precise information for every cubic millimeter of the atmosphere—the exact temperature, wind velocity, atmospheric pressure, and so on—instant by instant, they will be unable to predict the future weather with absolute certainty. Lorenz demonstrates that "predictability," the cherished goal of Laplace, if not of Newton, and of generations of scientists since, is as unattainable in global terms as Heisenberg had shown it to be at the sub-atomic level. No wonder, then, that conventional scientists call these sensitively dependent systems that behave so unpredictably "chaotic."
Actually, Lorenz's "butterfly effect" is not a totally original formulation; the turn-of-the-century French mathematician Jules Henri Poincare had observed something very similar in non-linear equations, and the nineteenth-century English scientist and founding father of thermodynamics, James Clerk Maxwell, had anticipated Joyce by using the match to illustrate a similar disproportion between cause and effect: "The match is responsible for the forest fire, but reference to a match does not suffice to understand the fire" (qtd. Prigogine and Stengers 206). <7> Likewise, Stephen's reverie that Messenger's lighting of his cigar, "that small act, trivial in itself, that striking of that match," could determine "the whole aftercourse of both our lives," does not seem like a profound metaphysical insight; indeed, it sounds very much like a cliche. And if it be a cliche, it is because Stephen reflects, through conventionalized narrative style, something often thought and recognized in everyday experience: the sensitive dependence of our fates on apparently small and accidental initial conditions.
Notwithstanding its status as a commonplace, Joyce in fact builds his entire novel on just such a "small act, trivial in itself," the brief encounter of Stephen and Bloom. Lorenz's formulation of his "butterfly effect" itself illustrates the principle it concerns, because his iteration of a familiar idea has generated, through a series of consequences, a massive reorientation of contemporary thought in the sensitively dependent system of the sciences, a new analytical focus on the complexity, irregularity, and unpredictable muddle of the world as we experience it. Chaos theory moves science toward the description of this real world and indicates that complexity is rooted in the simple, in a way very different from the Cartesian-Newtonian conception of simplicity.
We understand the Messenger passage because all of us have sometimes thought back through a series of events that we have experienced and wondered: if I had not dropped off my dry cleaning, then I would have been driving on the freeway; and if I had been driving on the freeway, I would have taken the 2nd Street exit; and then and then and then, on to some calamity or good fortune, met or missed. In a similar vein, in "Circe" Bloom remarks "If I had passed Truelock's window that day two minutes later would have been shot" (_U_15:645- 646). Such a reflection is simply the retrospective arrangement of a chain of multiplying effects emerging from a single ultimate cause. Through this chain, some effect resulting from a prior cause is "fed" into the next causal link, leading to the next effect which, in turn, is fed back into the next link. Indeed, this principle of _feedback_ characterizes all sensitively dependent phenomena, exponentially intensifying the effects of even the most humble of causes.
If we were to graph the relation of action and reaction in a dynamic system featuring such feedback, we would not get the diagonal straight line of a classic Newtonian system, where equivalent causes create equivalent effects: hence, scientists call such systems "nonlinear." Our lives, our world, and "just about everything else of interest," as Heinz Pagels remarks, are resolutely nonlinear (73). In the often quoted words of the mathematician Benoit Mandelbrot, "Clouds are not spheres, mountains are not cones, coastlines are not circles, and bark is not smooth, nor does lightning travel in a straight line" (1).
A classic example of a nonlinear system, characterized by feedback, is the erratic fluctuation of populations in ecosystems. A variety of circumstances will affect the growth and decline of a population of, say, insects in a particular environment: reproductive rates, available food supply, populations of predators, etc. One of the most important of these conditions, obviously, is the population of the previous generation of the same insects, the parents of the next generation. Population biologists use a formula, called the Verhulst equation, to project growth rates; the Verhulst equation includes a factor that feeds back the estimate of the present population. This equation is so sensitively dependent that an error of only "one part in ten quadrillion (a one followed by sixteen zeros)" in our estimate of the number of bugs in the pond will make our calculation of the population, after fifty cycles (or iterations of the equation), totally unreliable (Peat 198).
To ascertain the likely growth or decline of the population over several years, we would have to have an impossibly exact figure for the first year's population; any error will feed back every time the equation is recalculated (iterated) for a subsequent year. So, if our margin of error can be no greater than 1 X 10-16, an accuracy vastly beyond human capacity, why should we even attempt prediction in analyzing the behavior of such nonlinear systems? One obvious answer is that these systems are, after all, most characteristic of life as we know it; we cannot simply abandon the study of nonlinearity. Yet, if we cannot project their behavior, what should our objective be in examining nonlinear systems? This is precisely the question addressed by chaos theory and by the larger emerging discipline of which it is a subset: what Pagels calls the "Sciences of Complexity" in his _Dreams of Reason_. One of the most important consequences of the paradigm shift toward complexity research is that scientists have recognized that they are not in the business of _prediction_, but _explanation_. <8> Prospectively, the cosmos is unpredictable, accidental; yet in explanation, in description by a kind of retrospective arrangement, we can see that this cosmos is designed, determined. In a word, in _Joyce's_ word from _Finnegans Wake_, the scientists of complexity have found a "chaosmos" in the cosmos (_FW_118.21).
We have a precise analog in literature for the phenomenon of feedback that makes the behavior of dynamic systems both unpredictable and, it would appear, hopelessly complex. In the act of reading itself, the individual reader's response alters the behavior of the "system," the book, with each "iteration," or reading. The same and many additional readers perform subsequent iterations/readings: in all cases, the products of the experience will differ, sometimes with unpredictably vast shifts in the results. Joyce's own, often noted behavior as a reader of his own work, feeding back his prior experience of the text into the text, intensifies this chaotic complexity. The exponential growth of _Ulysses_ from its earliest state as a short story intended for _Dubliners_ and Joyce's well documented incremental methods of composition for both _Ulysses_ and _Finnegans Wake_, parallel the behavior of nonlinear dynamic systems approaching chaotic turbulence. The apparently simple initial conditions of the Joycean text approach and maintain a tenuous balance on the so-called "edge of chaos," that region where the greatest diversity and creativity reside in nature. <9> This region, now being examined by the scientists of complexity, is the realm Joyce's critics have long inhabited in literary study.
The new emphasis on description rather than prediction as the goal of science, the recent turn away from Laplace's dream of solving the mysteries of the universal machine, means, among other things, that the arts and sciences are once again treading on a common ground, or sharing a cup of cocoa under the same roof, like "The artistic" Stephen Dedalus and "The scientific" Leopold Bloom (_U_17:560). On the one hand, description has always been the business of the literary and visual arts. On the other hand, computer-generated portraits of chaos, the "Mandelbrot set" for example, a graphic representation of the behavior of a very simple reiterated nonlinear equation, have become a new art form, adorning book jackets, t-shirts, and posters; the success of coffee-table volumes featuring such "portraits of chaos" suggests that the line between computer-generated and non-representational art is thin indeed.
Theoretical physicists, such as Stephen Hawking in his _Brief History of Time_, foresee the reunification of physics and metaphysics in the near future; already, scientists such as Fritjof Capra (_The Tao of Physics_) and Richard Healy (_The Philosophy of Quantum Mechanics_) are writing about theology and philosophy, while philosophers such as Stephen Kellert are assessing the impact of recent developments in science (_In the Wake of Chaos_). The researchers at the Santa Fe Institute for the Study of Complexity approach their subject in much the same way as some critics approach the analysis of literature. This is not entirely coincidental, since one of the founders of the Santa Fe Institute is Murray Gell-Mann, who turned to _Finnegans Wake_ to find a name for an elementary particle in quantum physics, the "quark." <10> But, note that I say that the methods of the Santa Fe Institute resemble those of "some" rather than "all" literary critics, for the similarity extends solely to those that accept the presence of inherent design in art, as the chaoticians have in nature.
If chaos theory shows us that an apparently simple nonlinear dynamic system can generate phenomena of extraordinary complexity, the obverse also holds: that the simple roots of extremely complex phenomena may be discovered by a painstakingly detailed analysis, that chaos has a deeply imbedded design. <11> Portraits of chaos, made possible by advances in technology, by computers that can reiterate nonlinear equations hundreds of thousands of times in a few hours, have given scientists their first intuitions that chaos might be orderly. The stunning patterns of the Mandelbrot set, "the most complex mathematical shape ever invented," seem designed, not random (Stewart, _God_ 237). So also do erratic statistics such as population distributions, which until recently could only be studied a few cycles at a time, seem intricately ordered when we have a few millenia of data. The most remarkable implication of chaos theory, in fact, is its reintroduction of the concept of design in natural phenomena, either a Platonic immanent design (Gleick), or an anti- entropic, self-organizational dynamic in nature (Prigogine), but in either case a design that is beyond the influence or control of the individual observer. This last point is crucial, because it marks a fundamental difference between chaos theory and quantum theory.
_Ulysses_, a novel that many first-time readers perceived as chaotic and incomprehensible, nicely illustrates the distinction between immanent and emergent design in a nonlinear system; more than this, it also exposes the differences between the worldviews of quantum theory and complexity science, in both its characters and its readers. As we all know, Joyce himself imbedded a number of organizational structures in his novel: the Homeric myth, the _Hamlet_ allusions, the Gilbert-Linati schemas, and so on. These represent the immanent design of the novel, the deterministic structures of the creator, the lawgiver. <12> The emergent structure of _Ulysses_, however, comprises those random features of the novel, such as messengers or firelighters, each of them apparently innocent of intent.
Nevertheless, these ostensibly incidental, gradually emerging details progressively combine into a community of behavior as the novel takes on a mind and life of its own. <13> Only at rare moments does Stephen dimly intuit that he inhabits the ordered system of a novel. ("Who watches me here? Who ever anywhere will read these written words?" [_U3:414-415].) Bloom has no idea that he recapitulates the wanderings of Ulysses. Neither recognizes that his speech and thoughts, for a part of the evening of June 16th, model the embryonic development of the English language. Similarly, no brain neuron has any "idea" that it is acting collectively with other neurons, providing an other entity with the much larger and more complex experience of an _idea_. <14> The consumer in the mid-1970s who purchased a VHS videorecorder, rather than a Beta machine, had no idea that this simple action might determine the future of an industry through the nonlinear phenomenon of "increasing returns" in the "complex adaptive system" of the economy. <15> And you and I have no idea how our decision to purchase some product, today, will affect the future "behavior" of the stock market, a complex living structure subject, we are told, to "moods."
Living within a system, such as a novel, Stephen and Bloom and all the other characters of the book can not grasp the design that contains them. Contemporaneous with the publication of _Ulysses_, Ludwig Wittgenstein succinctly stated the case in Proposition 6.41 of his _Tractatus_:
The sense of the world must lie outside the world. In the world everything is as it is, and everything happens as it does happen: _in_ it no value exists—and if it did exist, it would have no value. If there is any value that does have value, it must lie outside the whole sphere of what happens and is the case. For all that happens and is the case is accidental. What makes it non-accidental cannot lie _within_ the world, since if it did it would itself be accidental. It must lie outside the world. (71) <16>
From Stephen's limited viewpoint, then, it may seem perfectly legitimate to consider any design, any pattern he might perceive in his experience as the creation of his own imagination as "a conscious rational reagent," "ineluctably construct[ing meaning] upon the incertitude of the void" (_U_17:1013-15). However, Joyce counterpoints the artistic Stephen Dedalus, a creative "reagent," with the scientific Leopold Bloom, "a conscious reactor against the void of incertitude" (_U_17:2210-11), who, like the contemporary chaotician (1) rejects the reduction of complex phenomena to the half-truths of simplicity, to the Citizen's fury, for example, in "Cyclops," (2) accepts the reality of immanent and emergent design, that is, of both cosmic codes, such as "Roygbiv" (_U_13:1075-76), and of self-organizing systems, such as "find M.C." (_U_17:1842), and (3) recognizes that even the infidelity of his wife, the most complex and assuredly _nonlinear_ dynamic system in his experience, is "as natural as any and every natural act" by a sensitively dependent system in the process "of adaptation to altered conditions of existence" (_U_17:2178, 2191).
Stephen's quantum view of reality as subject to the influence and control of the observer, understandable perhaps for a literary character inside the world of the book, is less acceptable for the reader and critic who exist outside the system, where "all that happens and is the case" is not accidental, but, in the terms of chaos theory, the result of immanent and emergent design. One has to ask, then, whether the extreme subjectivism of much post-structuralist criticism risks too "close" a reading of _Ulysses_, celebrating the dislocation of the signifier from the signified, in effect inhabiting the quantum worldview of Stephen Dedalus, with all Rice 16 its limitations, and ignoring the glimpse of the complexity that is based in an aboriginal reality, expressed through Leopold Bloom. And perhaps we also need to ask whether we should start reading _Finnegans Wake_, too, with an eye toward complexity, rather than carrying over from _Ulysses_ only Stephen's quantum view of reality to argue against the metaphysics of presence. <17>
The history of literary theory in our century, if I may be allowed some very broad generalizations, roughly parallels the developments, the paradigm shifts in the sciences, with a chronological "red shift," a lag of several decades between the scientific theory and its assimilation by the literary academy. (Ironically, artists themselves have often been more timely in their responses: witness Joyce's rather casual and superficial allusions to relativity and quantum theory in _Finnegans Wake_. <18> ) The ascendant "New Criticism" of the 1930s, tracing the generic laws of literature in the model work, resembles the isolated study of physical systems in ideal states, the methodology of Cartesian-Newtonian science, an approach already three decades out of date. Pursuing our analogy, the formalist and structuralist enterprises that, in the Anglo-American world, grow out of the New Criticism, like Einstein's theories of Special and General Relativity (1905, 1916), do not abandon the concept of law, but see the structures of literature as contingent rather than absolute.
The intense subjectivity of post-structuralism finds its antecedent in quantum theory which, advancing through the 1920s and taking Einstein further than he was willing to go, argues against aboriginal reality altogether, saying, in effect, that the observer creates "reality" in the act of the observation. Finally, the contemporary return to the study of literature in all its contexts, call it the "new historicism" if you will, which views the work of literature not only in terms of itself and its readers, but also in terms of its relations to the complex multiple realities of history, popular culture, politics, and so on, has closed the temporal gap, sharing the fundamental assumptions of chaos theory and the broader, emerging field of the sciences of complexity. Heinz Pagels's description of the present state of complexity science in _The Dreams of Reason_ could, with a modest adjustment of terms, apply to the most positive directions in contemporary literary study:
Science has explored the microcosmos and the macrocosmos; we have a good sense of the lay of the land. The great unexplored frontier is complexity. Complex systems include the body and its organs, especially the brain, the economy, population and evolutionary systems, animal behavior, large molecules—all complicated things... . Scientists, in a new interdisciplinary effort, have begun to meet the challenge of complex systems and, remarkably, are understanding how complexity can emerge from simplicity. ... All of existence may be viewed as a complex system built out of simple components. Some of the themes of the new sciences of complexity ... [such as] the importance of nonlinear dynamics and selective systems [and] the new understanding of chaos ... portend a new synthesis of science that will overturn our traditional way of organizing reality. (12-13)
The literary work, too, springs from a simple conception, a "struck match," but it grows into a complex system, like the forest fire, or like the weather, or better yet like those "complex adaptive systems" such as the stock market, or the international community, where the mind of man, butterfly wings of a sort, can generate even more unpredictable fluctuations in behavior. A nonlinear dynamic novel like _Ulysses_ feeds back upon itself, adapting to and affecting its several contexts, and assimilates the reader into its complexity, the reader who feeds on and feeds back into the work and its world. No random phenomenon, _Ulysses_ nevertheless strays from the ordered and static world of the stable system, not into chaos, but to the borderline of complexity, the edge of chaos, where small causes have large effects and where both life itself and great works of literature are found.
This article originally appeared, in a slightly different version, in the
James Joyce Quarterly (31.2 [Winter 1994]: 41-54. I would like to thank the
James Joyce Quarterly for permission to republish the essay here.
Scientists, I should note, generally avoid the popularized term "Chaos
Theory," preferring to call their emergent discipline "dynamical systems
theory," "nonlinear systems theory," or the like. This question of terminology
may become moot if the sciences of complexity eventually subsume chaos
science, as I suggest in this paper. For the best general introductions to
chaos theory see Gleick's Chaos and Stewart's Does God Play Dice? Nina Hall's
essay collection, Exploring Chaos, provides a recent overview of the
applications of chaos theory among the natural and social sciences. Two recent
works of literary criticism, Hayles's Chaos Bound, and her essay collection,
Chaos and Order, both pursue a quite different direction than mine for reading
chaos in fiction.
For the concept of the "paradigm shift," see Kuhn's Structure of Scientific
For this concept of "simplicity" in the sciences, see Barrow 259-60, and
Morris 3-5, 210-11.
See Kern's The Culture of Time and Space for an extended study of the
transformations in the arts at the turn of the century, parallel to
"developments inspired by technology," suggesting "that a cultural revolution
of the broadest scope was taking place, one that involved essential structures
of human experience and basic forms of human expression" (6).
Lorenz presented his paper at the annual meeting of the American Association
for the Advancement of Science (29 December 1979) (Gleick 322). Although his
butterfly metaphor is a relatively recent creation, Lorenz first presented his
basic model of unpredictability in the weather, his strange attractor, in
1963, in his paper on "Deterministic Nonperiodic Flow" (Gleick 321). Gleick
provides an excellent overview of Lorenz's career (11-41 and passim).
For Poincar's influence on the mathematical foundations of chaos theory, see
Stewart, God 57-72.
John Holland, responding to the central questions facing the scientists of
complexity, "How [can] you predict anything? How [can] you have a science?"
argues, using the example of meteorology, "We can understand how [weather
features] interact to produce weather on a local and regional scale. In short,
we have a real science of weather--without full prediction. And we can do it
because prediction isn't the essence of science. The essence is comprehension
and explanation. And that's precisely what [the Santa Fe Institute for the
Study of Complexity] could hope to do with economics and other social
sciences" (Waldrop 255).
Kauffman, a central figure in two recent accounts of the developing sciences
of complexity by Lewin and Waldrop, develops the concept of the edge of chaos
into a new interpretation of evolution (see The Origins of Order).
Such is the "standard" explanation for the origin of the term "quark" (e.g.,
see Morris 13); Gell-Mann, however, recalls the story differently: "I liked
the sound. . . . Later I read Finnegans Wake, by James Joyce, and came upon
the line, `Three quarks for Muster Mark!' There were three of them, and there
were three particles in the proton. I knew the name was right" (qtd. Boslough
655). Also see Gell-Mann 180-81.
"Chaos is exciting," Ian Stewart writes, "because it opens up the possibility
of simplifying complicated phenomena." "The great discovery of chaotic
dynamics is that apparently patternless behaviour may become simple and
comprehensible if you look at the right picture" ("Portraits" 44, 58). For a
recent example of this new model of scientific simplification, this search for
what could be called the algorithm of a particularly complex phenomenon, see
Henig's report on the "bizarre, totally unpredictable changes" in the "genetic
arrangement" of the influenza virus that lead to flu pandemics (31).
Virologists have discovered that such mutations are neither purely arbitrary,
nor the predictable results of annual RNA gene replication (which ordinarily
makes immunization effective), but the consequence of the genetic
"reassortment" that takes place in the intestines of birds-- especially
ducks--and swine that live together and in close proximity to, or cohabit
with, humans (55). One region where "integrated pig-duck farming" is
indigenous and where pandemic influenza "has historically originated," is the
Orient, particularly China (64).
David A. White makes a similar point when he distinguishes Ulysses, a novel
"based on principles of stability," from Finnegans Wake, a work "based on
principles of continual flux" (127). Joyce's determinism appears in his use of
a third-person narration that "introduces an apparently irreducible stability
into the metaphysics of consciousness, implicitly but also undeniably" (126).
This impression that Ulysses in some sense takes on a "life of its own"--Joyce
has, after all, given the novel an anatomy in his schemas--especially
characterizes the studies of the emergent, evolving styles of the book, those
features which Karen Lawrence, for example, describes as "narrative behavior"
(55; my emphasis); Michael Groden, similarly, suggests that "Ulysses itself
becomes one great `character'" (55); also see French passim, Goldman 74-117,
and Riquelme 131-229.
See Searle's Rediscovery of the Mind and Pagels's discussion of cognition and
consciousness (180- 240).
Waldrop's study of complexity science centers on the economist Brian Arthur's
evolution of his heterodox theory of "increasing returns"; one of Arthur's
most intriguing examples of this phenomenon is the emergence of the QWERTY
keyboard, a deliberately awkward alignment of typewriter keys (meant to slow
the typist and prevent jamming in early machines), which nevertheless came to
dominate the industry, eliminating other and better formats, and remaining the
standard keyboard today (Waldrop 35). Arthur also uses the VHS vs. Beta
competition to illustrate "increasing returns" (35-36).
Both Heinz Pagels and Iris Murdoch argue that Wittgenstein does not, in fact,
rule out metaphysics and theology in his Tractatus; he simply exposes the
limits of logic. Proposition 6.41 actually implies that a higher design may
exist (Pagels 23 and passim, Murdoch 29-31 and passim).
French, too, argues that "Joyce insists that man's essence consists in his
being a conscious reactor against his uncertainty about having any
significance" (239). For the most extended reading of Ulysses in light of
quantum theory, see Booker 577-86; and for a convincing argument for an
aboriginal reality in the novel, beyond the influence or control of the
observer, see Perlis 191-97. Most of the critics who have seen Ulysses
reflecting the new physics of the first quarter of this century, have
suggested rather loose correlations to an often misrepresented version of
Einstein's theories of relativity, following the early lead of Wyndham Lewis
(91-130 passim), and Edmund Wilson (191- 236); for example, see Eco 55-56 and
passim, Fleishman 136- 48 and French 5, 12, and passim. French makes a
confusing move from casual references to Einsteinian relativity, to a primary
concentration on Heisenbergian "incertitude" in her reading of Ulysses (17),
illustrating what Perlis describes as the chief danger in the overly facile
application of scientific terminology to Ulysses. For the best recent
discussions of Joyce's general relations to modern science, see Perlis 191-97
and Friedman 198-206. There are, moreover, several able studies of Joyce's use
of the theories of relativity and quantum physics in Finnegans Wake; see, for
example, Andrzej's Joyce of Science, Hart 65-66 and passim, Langdon 359-77,
Mink 1-16, and Purdy 207- 18. Of course, a recent general study of the
fiction, Herring's Joyce's Uncertainty Principle, loosely appropriates one of
the central precepts of quantum theory, Heisenberg's "uncertainty principle,"
to describe Joyce's working methods.
Purdy, while seeing Finnegans Wake as "our century's greatest artistic
expression of a changed world science has given us," nonetheless dismisses
"Einsteinian" and "Heisenbergian" readings of the novel: "No twentieth-
century science provides more than a superficial source for the book" (216).
© Thomas Jackson Rice
|volume 1, issue 1, 1995|