Narrative Events and Eventful Models in Physics: a Mutual Reflection
In this project, I propose an interdisciplinary theoretical investigation of events between literature and physics. In narratology, a narrative is defined as a series of events, but it is notoriously difficult to define an event. The traditional definition of an event as a change of state is not very helpful because many changes of state are too trivial for narrative analysis. The follow-up question becomes that of how to define a significant event, the kind of event that matters for our understanding of a story? In my investigation, I propose to look at those events whose irreversibility is foregrounded as the organizing principle and reason for the story at hand, such as fateful misjudgments in a Bildung narrative. I will study irreversible events in literature through the prism of scientific models that describe irreversible processes, such as the growth of entropy and the dissipation of energy in thermodynamics. By looking at how these processes are conceptualized in physics, I hope to be able to illuminate the key narratological features of an event. One hypothesis is that the interaction between the performative aspect of story-telling, that of syuzhet with the cognitive aspect of fabula produces the effect of eventfulness. At the same time, I want to study how our narrative understanding of eventfulness plays an important part in how physical models of irreversible processes are laid out.