“Was not their mistake once more bred of the life of slavery that they had been living?—a life which was always looking upon everything, except mankind, animate and inanimate—‘nature,’ as people used to call it—as one thing, and mankind as another, it was natural to people thinking in this way, that they should try to make ‘nature’ their slave, since they thought ‘nature’ was something outside them” — William Morris

Friday, February 25, 2011

Encapsulation Prose Configuration Space

Space is curved: Monet at the Orangerie

Something very strange happens at the end of the nineteenth century. It's the moment at which Einstein discovers relativity. It's the moment at which Husserl formulates his startling revision of Brentano's notion of intentionality. It's the moment at which Planck discovers quanta.

It's also the moment at which prose stops being poetry with very long lines. Lines so long that they are usually right justified in a printed text and called paragraphs. Instead, poetry begins to look like a less entropic little island in a giant ocean of prose. What happened?

The configuration space of literature jumped to a higher dimension. In part this was to do with poetry itself: Mallarmé treated the space of the page as a rubber sheet that was part of the poem, stretching it and separating the words. Suddenly lineation becomes part of a higher dimensional configuration space that includes the space around the lines. Whitman's Blakean experiments with long lineation and Rimbaud's prose poems (etc.) also play a part.

Realism's configuration space swallowed the epistolary novel. Naturalism's configuration space swallowed realism. The reader was given more and more of a role in the act of reading—not yet an interactive one, more like an interpassive one. The reader gets to fill in the moving blank in the text, starting with the untagged indirect speech of Jane Austen (genius innovator: see my talks on iTunes U for more information). There is a direct line here to role playing games and videogames, incidentally, which include realism in a still higher dimensional configuration space. (My essay on philosophy and Dungeons and Dragons is going to make this point.)

What we see here are all processes of encapsulation (Ian Bogost's term):
Prose encapsulates poetry.
Spacetime encapsulates physical objects.
Intentionality encapsulates thinking.
Quanta encapsulate waves.

Look at a late Monet painting (roughly contemporary with 1900). They're hyperobjects aren't they? It's particularly intense to see them at the Orangerie, immersed in them and surrounded by them. The space of painting encapsulates the objects in it. We aren't looking at the water lilies per se. We're looking at the water in which the lilies float. The configuration space in which painterly objects appear begins to float and ripple. Color begins to separate from form. Brushstrokes begin to separate from what they are depicting.

What does this mean? It means that OOO objects are beginning to appear.

1 comment:

Karl said...

"(My essay on philosophy and Dungeons and Dragons is going to make this point.)"

i want to read that ASAP!