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Time and Uncertainty: A Metaphorical Equation

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My first argument posits that concepts of temporality are discursive strategies to harness uncertainty understood as an innate human condition. Saint Augustine's question of time and some poetic quotes serve as examples to demonstrate the metaphoric use of time in order to attenuate the effects of uncertainty in human affairs. The long history of this substitution is interrupted, however, by Newtonian celestial mechanics, which reduced the metaphoric power of time to quantifiable temporal increments within the construct of differential equations. While classical science continued creating models to explain nature within the conceptual limits of a perfectly reversible and therefore redundant time, poetry, and literature in general, re-discovered the power of time, but through an increasingly radical shift in its relationship to uncertainty. Therefore, using examples from writings by Stéphane Mallarmé and Honoré de Balzac, my second argument explores the possibility that uncertainty is time, not in a metaphoric mode, but as a conceptual identity. Bonding time and uncertainty in this fashion, the examples show further that literary discourse of the 19th Century projects the nonlinear dynamical thinking that dominates late 20th Century scientific debate.


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