By Jo Alyson Parker (auth.)
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Additional resources for Narrative Form and Chaos Theory in Sterne, Proust, Woolf, and Faulkner
Sterne plays games not only with temporal ordering but also with temporal duration. 29 The games that Tristram Shandy plays with time are not simply a reaction to Newtonian notions, but also an anticipation and enactment of the flow of time as we have begun to understand it in the wake chaos theory. Chaos theory foregrounds the complex entanglement between external reality and internal experience in our understanding of time. It is toward this new awareness of time that Sterne’s text points. Again, Newtonian science depends on a notion of absolute time.
286) For Tristram, writing does not move inevitably to its own cessation, but it is endlessly generative as it moves toward the climax it must never reach. The apparent impotence of the Shandy family serves as an appropriate figure for the climaxless text. Indeed, the text is climaxless in more than one sense. As in the story of Tristram’s “conception” and that of the Fair Beguine, Sterne temporally defers and figuratively displaces the sexual climaxes themselves. Tristram Shandy speaks endlessly around sex but never directly of it.
It is a figure (in the sense of a trope) of the system’s dynamical behavior, created by the dynamicist’s manipulation of parameters in state space. Although my work explores the analogous behaviors of a dynamical system’s simulation and a narrative, I do want to point out that there are a few crucial distinctions. Whereas dynamicists alone observe the empirical data, configure the system’s behavior, and interpret the resulting simulation, these tasks, in a narrative system, are divided between writers and readers.