Disrupted Patterns

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This collection of essays explores the significance of modern chaos theory as a new paradigm in literary studies and argues for the usefulness of borrowings from one discipline to another. Its thesis is that external reality is real and is not merely a social construct. On the other hand, this volume reflects the belief that literature, as a social and cultural construct, is not unrelated to that external reality. The authors represented here furthermore believe that learning to communicate across disciplinary divides is worth the risk of looking silly to purists and dogmatists. In applying a contemporary scientific grid to a by-gone era, the authors play out Steven Weinberg's exhortation to mind the clues to the past that cannot be obtained in any other way. It is of course necessary to get the science right, yet the essays in this collection do not seek to do science, but rather to suggest that science and literature often share common assumptions and realities. Thus there is no attempt to legitimize literary study through the adoption of a scientific approach. Interaction between the disciplines requires mutual respect and a willingness to investigate the broader implications of scientific research. Consequently, this volume will be of interest to students and scholars of the long eighteenth century whether the focus is on England (Locke, Milton, Radcliffe, Lewis), France (Crébillion, Diderot, Marivaux, Montesquieu) or Germany (Kant, Moritz, Goethe, Fr. Schlegel). Moreover, given its multiple thrust in employing mythological, philosophical, and scientific notions of chaos, this volume will appeal to historians and philosophers of the European Enlightenment as well as to literary historians. The volume ultimately aspires to promote communication across centuries and across disciplines.

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