Between Science and Literature: AN INTRODUCTION TO AUTOPOETICS

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University of Illinois Press, Oct 1, 2010 - Literary Criticism - 208 pages
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Between Literature and Science follows through to its emerging 21st-century future the central insight of 20th-century literary and cultural theory: that language and culture, along with their subsystems and artifacts, are self-referential systems. The book explores the workings of self-reference (and the related performativity) in linguistic utterances and assorted texts, through examples of the more open social-discursive systems of post-structuralism and cultural studies, and into the sciences, where complex systems organized by recursive self-reference are now being embraced as an emergent paradigm. This paradigmatic convergence between the humanities and sciences is autopoetics (adapting biologist Hubert Maturana’s term for “self-making” systems), and it signals a long-term epistemological shift across the nature/culture divide so definitive for modernity.  If cultural theory has taught us that language, because of its self-referential nature, cannot bear simple witness to the world, the new paradigmatic status of self-referential systems in the natural sciences points toward a revived kinship of language and culture with the world: language bears “witness” to the world.
 
The main movement of the book is through a series of model explications and analyses, operational definitions of concepts and terms, more extended case studies, vignettes and thought experiments designed to give the reader a feel for the concepts and how to use them, while working to expand the autopoetic internee by putting cultural self-reference in dialogue with the self-organizing systems of the sciences.  Along the way the reader is introduced to self-reference in epistemology (Foucault), sociology (Luhmann), biology (Maturana/Varela/Kauffman), and physics and cosmology (Smolin). Livingston works through the fundamentals of cultural, literary, and science studies and makes them comprehensible to a non-specialist audience.
 
 

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Contents

1 The Livingthinglikeness of Language
1
2 Words and Things
4
3 Thirds and Wings
11
4 The Order of Things in a Nutshell
15
The Sick Mind Continues to Infinity
25
6 An Introductory Vignette
31
7 Sometimes a Cigar
36
8 On Meaning
39
Defrosting
90
Power and Meaning
97
Metacleavage
109
The Abyss of Distinction
120
Retroactivism
124
19 The Return to Resemblance
134
20 Gravity Cannot Be Held Responsible?
146
21 Queer in a Queer World
160

9 Fact and Fiction
43
10 How Bad Facts Make Good Theories
51
11 SelfReference I
58
12 SelfReference II
70
13 Autopoiesis
78
22 An Alienist Histoyr
174
Bibliography
183
Index
189
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About the author (2010)

Ira Livingston is associate professor of English and com- parative literary and cultural studies at the State University of New York, Stony Brook. He is the author of Arrow of Chaos: Romanticism and Postmodernity.N. Katherine Hayles, John Charles Hillis Professor of Literature, University of California, Los Angeles, and the author of My Mother Was a Computer: Digital Subjects and Literary Texts.
 

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