Lourdes Câncio Martins
Centre for Comparative Studies, School of Arts and Humanities, University of Lisbon
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An Orderly Chaos: Science, Literature and the World
Dedalus 21 (2017), pp. 165-171. Download PDF

We are heirs to the cosmogonic myths of order conquering chaos, which marked, until recently, the Western tradition, as expressed in theoretical terms privileging order, stability and permanence over chaos. Both science and literature show clear signs of that inheritance. However, by the end of the 19th century, another world view had appeared to renounce linearity, continuity, the regularity of order; putting forward a discontinuous dynamic creating multiple ruptures and establishing the principle of disorder. Scientific discoveries leading to Chaos theory, in the 20th century, have made major contributions towards structuring this new model for seeing the world. By seeking connections between different kinds of irregularity, Chaos becomes “a science of the global nature of the systems” (James Gleick). We will consider the reception of this new science, understood as “orderly chaos”, in the contemporary literary system, which is all the more plausible as it is a travelling concept breaking the boundaries that separate scientific disciplines.