Literature thermodynamics

Literatrue thermodynamics
Left: the 1953 book House of Entropy by Roy Sheldon, with the tagline: "they were a strange—uncanny … a people controlled by a fabulous brain.” Center: the 1981 science fiction book The Entropy Tango by Michael Moorcock, in which which entropy is associated with identity failure, particularly in the inner city where the presentation of the self in everyday life is a form of theatre. [7] Right: the 2004 book The Dialogues of Time and Entropy by Aryeh Stollman.
In human thermodynamics, literature thermodynamics is the use of or study of thermodynamic theories, laws, or concepts in a piece of literary work.

In literature thermodynamics, a commonality is the use of the metaphor of entropy, and the second law of thermodynamics, in particular, to describe the end of times, according to the 1988 Dictionary of Literary Themes and Motifs, is a common motif in fiction; which is summarized quite well by American literature theorist Lois Zamora as follows: [11]

“A contemporary variation on the apocalyptic vision is provided by the metaphor of entropy. Like apocalypse, entropy is an eschatological vision; it is based on the second law of thermodynamics, which describes the gradual leveling of energy in the universe and the molecular equilibrium called heat death at the end of the process. Entropy posits a world moving toward its extinction inexorably and irreversibly; the end is not to be orchestrated with the great crescendo of apocalyptic cataclysm but rather with the decrescendo of entropic chaos. This eschatology is far more pessimistic than conventional apocalyptic eschatology. The end is not caused by man’s action and god’s reaction, but is produced by decomposition, disintegration, and gradual loss of energy and differentiation.

The anthropomorphism of the traditional apocalypse, with it implicit sense of purposeful history responding to human as well as to divine actions, yields to the bleak mechanism of a purely physical world that is irreversibly running out of energy. Whereas the apocalyptic vision sees a causal relationship between past, present, and future, the law of entropy, when applied to human affairs, negates such rational, temporal continuity. History does have a direction as it moves towards heat death, but it admits not human influence, no logical relationship between cause and effect. The use of the metaphor of entropy to describe the end of times appears through the fiction of Thomas Pynchon, William Burroughs, Norman Mailer, and James Purdy.”

See main: LT pioneers
A short listing of authors who, in one way or another, have used thermodynamic logic or concepts, such as affinity, entropy, or heat, in their writings include:

Johann Goethe - 1809 scientific novella Elective Affinities (although this is pre-thermodynamics).
Isaac Asimov - 1956 second law themed short story The Last Question concerning heat death.
Thomas Pynchon - 1960 short story "Entropy" and the 1966 novella The Crying of Lot 49.
Aldous Huxley - 1962 book The Islandas well as ideas onhuman entropy.
Pamela Zoline - 1967 controversial short story “The Heat Death of the Universe”.
Tom Stoppard - 1993 play Arcadia (themed on Goethe's Elective Affinities).
Vonda McIntyre - 1981 novel The Entropy effect.
Peter Freese - 1995 articles and books on the use of entropy and apocalypse in fiction.
Forbes Allan - the 1999 book Milton's Progress, with use of the term "human thermodynamics".

among others.

A certain amount effort has been devoted to the dissect the work of English author William Shakespeare (1564-1616) thermodynamically.

The 1994 book Linguistic Entropy in Othello of Shakespeare by Indian literary theorist Narasimha Ramayya mixes physics with literature and devotes a considerable amount of text to ferreting out a concept he calls “linguist entropy”. [12]

Another example is author Frederick Turner's 1999 claim that Shakespeare anticipates the second law in sonnets. [1] This however, is a dubious assertion on the logic that heat in Shakespeare's day (see: entropy models) was a mix of the "sulphur combustion model" Paracelsus and the Promethean heat (mythology model), the latter of which Shakespeare wrote about (as being the seed of life); and neither of had any type of mathematical formulation of heat (which only began to occur after Isaac Newton and his 1686 Principia). [1]

In 1967, American physics historian Stephen Brush, "in his remarkable study of how themes in thermodynamics are echoed by trends and fashions in nineteenth-century art and literature", has said that his biggest surprise was to learn, early in his research, that he was pioneering nearly virgin territory, where no scholarly foot had trod. [4]

A 1995 New York Magazine cover of Norman Mailer (1923-2007) on the review of his new book Portrait of Picasso as a Young Man, in which, supposedly, he revisits is favorite question, as the cover story tagline states, “how sex and ego and an entropic world are transformed into great art.” [9]

In 1999, in the novel Milton’s Progress, by Forbes Allan, we find a conversation between a character named John and a Dr. Snipe, along with references to a “Ilya Meiliakin”, a play on Ilya Prigogine, noted for his 1970s dissipative structure theory, and Robert Millikan, noted for his 1909 oil drop experiment (Ѻ), concerning human life, which is described as “the most effective multiplier of entropic decay in the universe”, and man’s quest to understand his function in the scheme of things: [2]

“It’s just human thermodynamics, my friend,” John said stiffly, “you’re inside the jaws of laws beyond your ken.” That’s an acer poem, he decided, which nicely sums up the plight of humankind and the worthlessness of being. “Maybe I’ve stumbled upon a new law of physics!” it flashed on him suddenly: “—that life-driven anti-entropic processes are an integral component of all the second law activities and provide an engine with which to accelerate the overall degradation of energy into heat! … Or would that be a ‘fourth’ law of thermodynamics? …”

Other noted science fiction or nonfiction books and works in which entropy plays a major theme include: Robert Silverberg’s “In Entropy’s Jaws” (1971) and Michael Moorcock’s The Entropy Tango (1981). [6]

In their 1994 book Literature and Science, authors Donald Bruce and Anthony Purdy spend considerable time discussing the use of entropy, thermodynamics, dynamical systems, chaos theory, such as developed by Ilya Prigogine, in literature. [5]

American novelist Norman Mailer (pictured adjacent), according to literary theme theorist Tony Taner, is one of slew of authors, such as: Saul Bellow, John Updike, John Barth, Walker Percy, Stanley Elkin, Donald Barthelme, and Thomas Pynchon, who frequently use the term “entropy”. [10]

The following quote from the 2008 book The Entropy of Aaron Rosclatt, pictured below, by Canadian writer James Sandham gives an idea of a common theme found in literature thermodynamics: [3]

“The confrontation of youth’s crisp idealism with reality the reality that life is not so easily understood or tamed, and that, despite our best efforts, we are all inevitably subject to the slow slide into entropy.”

Pamela Gossin's 2002 Encyclopedia of Literature and Science, likewise, devotes a considerable partition to outlining the historical use of thermodynamics in literature. [8]

Recent literature thermodynamics researchers include: Katherine Hayles, William Paulson, Bruce Clarke, Barri Gold, and Allen MacDuffie.

See also
Literature chemistry

1. (a) Turner, Frederick. (1999). Shakerspeare's Twenty-First Century Economics: The Morality of Love and Money, (pg. 23-24). New York: Oxford University Press.
(b) Engle, Lars. (2002). Review of: Shakerspeare's Twenty-First Century Economics: The Morality of Love and Money by Frederick Turner. Modern Philology, Vol. 100, No. 2, Nov. pgs. 275-78.
2. Forbes, Allen. (1999). Milton's Progress (Chapter 21). Rowanlea Grove Press.
3. (a) Sandham, James. (2008). The Entropy of Aaron Rosclatt. Clark-Nova Books.
(b) The Entropy of Aaron Rosclatt – Mini Book Expo for Bloggers, 09 Oct 2008.
4. Slade, Joseph W. (1990). Beyond Two Cultures: Essays on Science, Technology, and Literature, (ch. 1: "Observer and Object, Reader and Text: Some Paralle Themes in Modern Science and Literature" by Jeremy Campbell, pgs. 23-37; Stephen Brush on thermodynamics and literature, pg. 24; ch. 9: "Entropy as Root Metaphor", by Eric Zencey, pgs. 185-200; entropism, pg. 194). Iowa State University Press.
5. Bruce, Donald and Purdy, Anthony G. (1994). Literature and Science (thermodynamics, pgs. 6-14, 145, 167). Rodopi.
6. Bly, Robert. (2005). The Science in Science Fiction (entropy, pg. 118). BenBella Books.
7. (a) The Entropy Tango – Wikipedia.
(b) The Entropy Tango (synopsis) –
8. Gossin, Pamela. (2002). Encyclopedia of Literature and Science (thermodynamics, 18+ pgs). Greenwood Publishing Group.
9. (a) Solomon, Barkara P. (1995). “Callow Young Genius”, New York Magazine, Sep 11.
10. Clark, John R. (1991). The Modern Satiric Grotesque and its Traditions (pg. 150). University of Kentucky Press.
11. (a) Zamora, Lois Parkinson. (1988). “§Apocalypse, subsection: Nineteenth- and Twentieth-Century American Apocalyptic Literature”, in: Dictionary of Literary Themes and Motifs A-J, Volume 1 (pg. 96), Seigneuret, Jean-Charles, editor. Greenwood Publishing Group.
(b) Norman Mailer – Wikipedia.
12. Ramayya, N. Narasimha. (1994). Linguistic Entropy in Othello of Shakespeare. MD Publications.

Further reading
● Smith, Wayne L. (1975). “Thermodynamics, Folk Culture, and Poetry” (abs), Journal of Chemical Education, 52(2):97.
● Greenland, Colin. (1983). The Entropy Exhibition: Michael Moorcock and the British “new wave” in Science Fiction. Routledge & Kegan Paul.
● Cooke, Olga M. (1985). “Bely’s Moscow Novels and Zamyatin’s Robert Mayer: A Literary Response to Thermodynamics”, Slavonic & East European Review (SEER), Vol. 63, April.
● Baguley, David. (1990). Naturalistic Fiction: the Entropic Vision. Cambridge University Press.
● Frank, Rich. (1993). “Critic’s Notebook; On Thermodynamics, Byron and, Oh, Yes, Sex.”, The New York Times, Arts, Nov. 11.
● Nixon, Jude. (2002). “‘Death Blots Black Out’: Thermodynamics and the Poetry of Gerard Manley Hopkins” (abs), Victorian Poetry, 40(2): 131-55. Summer.
● Ouellette, Jennifer. (2006). The Physics of Buffyverse (ch. 3: Rough Magic: Spellbound by the Laws of Thermodynamics, pgs. 67-95; thermodynamics, pgs. 126-27, 211, 252, 276). Penguin.
● Gordon, Anthony L. (2008). Entropy, a Novel About Falling Apart. CreateSpace.
● Somma, Ryan. (2010). Entropy of Imagination.
● Bruni, John. (2011). “§20: Thermodynamics”, in: The Routledge Companion to Literature and Science (editors: Bruce Clarke, Manuel Rossini) (pgs. 226-38). Taylor & Francis.

External links
Evolution and Entropy in Women in Love - from Dora Marsden and Early Modernism, ch. 4.
Jude the Entropic Man – Marvel comics character.
Thermodynamic man (1974) – Marvel Comics.
Thermodynamic Poetry –

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