Chaos Theory and James Joyce's "ulysses": Leopold Bloom as a Human COMPLEX@SYSTEM^
These four ideas apply as much to our lives as to the life of Leopold Bloom: (1) A trivial decision can wholly change a life. (2) A chance encounter can dramatically alter life's course. (3) A contingent nexus exists between consciousness and environment. (4) A structure of meaning helps us interpret life's chaos. These ideas also relate to a contemporary science called by some "chaos theory." The connection between Ulysses and chaos theory enhances our understanding of Bloom's day; it also suggests that this novel may be about the real process of life itself. The first chapter explains how Joyce's own essays and comments to friends compel attention to the links between Ulysses and chaos theory. His scientific contemporaries anticipated chaos theory, and their ideas seem to have rubbed off on him. We see this in his sense of trivial things and chance, his modernistic organizational impulses, and the contingent nature of Bloom's experience. The second chapter studies what chaos theory and Joyce's ideas tell us about "Ithaca," the episode which particularly implicates our processes of interpreting this text as well as life itself as we face their chaos. The third chapter examines Bloom's close feel for the aboriginal world, a contingency that clarifies his vulnerability to trivial changes. The fourth chapter studies how Bloom's stream of consciousness unfolds--from his chance encounters with trivial things. Beneath this stream's seeming chaos, Bloom's distinct personality endures, similar to how Joyce's schemas give Ulysses an imbedded, underlying order. The fifth chapter examines how trivial perturbations, such as Lyons' misunderstanding about "Throwaway," produce small crises for Bloom, exacerbating his seeming impotence before his lonely "fate.". The final chapter analyzes Bloom's views that fate and chance dictate his life. His views provide an opportunity to explore the implications chaos theory has for our understanding of free will and determinism. Ultimately, despite ungovernable fate and chance, Bloom asserts his will with Stephen and Molly, proving that he will live on, attempting to create his own destiny, wresting hope from the "chaos" of his experience.
- Pub Date:
- January 1995
- Literature: English; Physics: General; History of Science