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"To make sense of a random act of violence": "Tyche, Automaton", and Trauma in Charles Brockden Brown's "Edgar Huntly, or, Memoirs of a Sleep-Walker"

Hanjo Berressem
Amerikastudien / American Studies
Vol. 45, No. 1, Chaos/Control: Complexity (2000), pp. 55-72
Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/41157536
Page Count: 18
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Since scans are not currently available to screen readers, please contact JSTOR User Support for access. We'll provide a PDF copy for your screen reader.
"To make sense of a random act of violence": "Tyche, Automaton", and Trauma in Charles Brockden Brown's "Edgar Huntly, or, Memoirs of a Sleep-Walker"
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Abstract

Taking its cue from Charles Brockden Brown's use of a number of ' proto-chaotic' terms in his novel Edgar Huntly: Memoirs of a Sleep-Walker— such as contingency, chance, catastrophe, probability, fluctuation, turbulence, and swerve—, this essay traces some aspects of the novel's seemingly inconsistent' structure, reading it as the effect of a carefully worked-out ' chaotic poetics.' In a second step, it connects the chaotic references with the notion of trauma, the logic and temporality of which are the matrices in which the novel might be read. The connection between chaos and trauma happens through the Aristotelian term ' tyche' and the Lucretian term ' clinamen.' Both of these terms, which are used in the novel at crucial moments, are also used by Lacan to denote the ' topology of trauma.' Ultimately, the essay argues, the novel highlights a danger expressed in the ambiguous statement that ' rationality is irrational'; an ambiguity also pervading Goya's statement that "el sueno de la razon produce monstruos."

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