Thesis Info

Thesis Title
"Being and Becoming: Physics, Hegemony, Art and the Nomad in the Works of Ezra Pound, Marcel Duchamp, Samuel Beckett, John Cage and Thomas Pynchon."
Dr. Martin E. Rosenberg
2nd Author
3rd Author
Number of Pages
University of Michigan Rackham Graduate School
Thesis Supervisor
Stuart McDougal, William R. Paulson
Supervisor e-mail
Other Supervisor(s)
Ann Herrmann; Julie
Language(s) of Thesis
Department / Discipline
English Language and Literature
Languages Familiar to Author
English, French
URL where full thesis can be found
Physics, Philosophy, Literature, Art, Theater, Music, Bergson, Deleuze, Thomas Pynchon, Ezra Pound, Samuel Beckett, John Cage,
Abstract: 200-500 words
This study of twentieth-century physics, hegemony theory and art seeks in tropes derived from physics symptoms of how the "field concept" remains divided internally between time-reversible and time-bound interpretive models exemplified by the dynamics of Newton, Maxwell, Einstein and Feynman, and the thermodynamics of Boltzmann, Bergson and Prigogine. Ilya Prigogine calls these warring interpretive models the physics of "being" and the physics of "becoming" respectively, and we may find tropical traces of these terms within aesthetic and social philosophy as well. Nietzsche, Adams, Spengler, Bakhtin, Bergson and Gramsci all explore the field of culture through a similar opposition in ways that prepare for the cultural critiques of Foucault, and Deleuze and Guattari, and their work will help us to critique the same oppositions in the artists addressed. "Being" and "becoming" help conceptualize a resisting, inertial model of culture, and the ways in which time and historical contingency, artistic and political acts of transgression disrupt cultural inertia. The works of Ezra Pound, Marcel Duchamp, Samuel Beckett, John Cage and Thomas Pynchon illustrate a war between inertial resistance and transgression. Their dependence upon oppositional physical tropes suggests complicity in their relationships with their audiences and with dominant culture. First, this study necessarily critiques the assumption of a correspondence between the laws of physics and of culture-formation. Second, while addressing five separate arts, it seeks to construct a genealogy disrupting the distinction between modern and post-modern art: excepting the early Pound, these artists employ tropes to represent and to justify their works as disruptions of the _a priori _ categories of space and time grounding the physics of "being" in a micropolitical response to cultural institutions dependent upon those _a priori_ categories. "Becoming," the threats of duration, difference, multiplicity and asymmetry, as initial conditions of "emergence," guides our investigations into these artists' transgressions and the responses of their audiences. Though identified with the transgressive tactics of the avant-garde, these artists invest in "natural law" just as hegemonic state apparatuses do, because the master trope "natural law" is both irreducible and inescapable. Even for radical thinkers like Deleuze and Guattari, nomos must have recourse to physis, while physis can only refer to itself.