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Non-Newtonian Time: Robert Lowell, Roman History, Vietnam War

Non-Newtonian Time: Robert Lowell, Roman History, Vietnam War deeply entrenched in our thinking that it works as a kind of mental reflex. Dates thus acquire a summary authority, with great descriptive and explanatory power. We don’t doubt that a number, 1965, can be assigned to one particular slice of time and that this meaningful numerical designation exercises a binding power over all the events that happen within its duration. Number, in this way, works as a kind of automatic unifier: it imposes an identity across-the-board. Because this numerical chronology standardizes time into a sequence of equal units, the location of any event and its proximity to any other is fixed by this sequence. 1965 is separated by only 20 years from 1945, and so it has got to be closer to this year than to the year 65, from which it is separated by 1900 years. This numerical bias is the unspoken norm for humanists no less than for scientists. Under new historicism, this norm has sometimes turned into a methodological claim, producing a spate of scholarship whose very ground of analysis is numerical time. It is routine for us to seize upon one particular number—the date of a text’s composition— and use it to set http://www.deepdyve.com/assets/images/DeepDyve-Logo-lg.png American Literature Duke University Press

Non-Newtonian Time: Robert Lowell, Roman History, Vietnam War

American Literature , Volume 74 (4) – Dec 1, 2002

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Publisher
Duke University Press
Copyright
Copyright 2002 by Duke University Press
ISSN
0002-9831
eISSN
1527-2117
DOI
10.1215/00029831-74-4-911
Publisher site
See Article on Publisher Site

Abstract

deeply entrenched in our thinking that it works as a kind of mental reflex. Dates thus acquire a summary authority, with great descriptive and explanatory power. We don’t doubt that a number, 1965, can be assigned to one particular slice of time and that this meaningful numerical designation exercises a binding power over all the events that happen within its duration. Number, in this way, works as a kind of automatic unifier: it imposes an identity across-the-board. Because this numerical chronology standardizes time into a sequence of equal units, the location of any event and its proximity to any other is fixed by this sequence. 1965 is separated by only 20 years from 1945, and so it has got to be closer to this year than to the year 65, from which it is separated by 1900 years. This numerical bias is the unspoken norm for humanists no less than for scientists. Under new historicism, this norm has sometimes turned into a methodological claim, producing a spate of scholarship whose very ground of analysis is numerical time. It is routine for us to seize upon one particular number—the date of a text’s composition— and use it to set

Journal

American LiteratureDuke University Press

Published: Dec 1, 2002

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