The Empire of Chance: War, Literature, and the Epistemic Order of Modernity

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The Empire of Chance: War, Literature, and the Epistemic Order of Modernity

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Title: The Empire of Chance: War, Literature, and the Epistemic Order of Modernity
Author: Engberg-Pedersen, Anders
Citation: Engberg-Pedersen, Anders. 2012. The Empire of Chance: War, Literature, and the Epistemic Order of Modernity. Doctoral dissertation, Harvard University.
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Abstract: The dissertation charts the momentous shift in the thinking of war that takes place in Europe around 1800. Against the background of the Napoleonic Wars, it examines the discourse on war in literature, military theory, philosophy, cartography, mathematics, and pedagogy. It argues that across these fields and disciplines, war is constituted as a world in itself, but a destabilized world governed by chance and contingency. As one theorist states, the complexity of warfare has risen to such a degree that war has become an empire of chance – 'l'empire du hazard.' Centered on the notion of the 'state of war,' the dissertation maps out the attempts to describe this complex epistemic regime as well as the inventions devised to manage it. These inventions are inextricably linked to a reconfiguration of the poetics of war. Across traditional genre boundaries, in treatises, in novellas and novels, but also on sketches, maps, and in games, war becomes just as much a poetological problem as an epistemological one. Having to reconstruct the state of war with symbolic means, the operational logic of war games, the topographical image of the military map, and the structure of a text all reveal so many conceptions of the phenomenon of war. I show how these different media are refashioned into technologies of experience that simulate the matrix of war virtually in order to immerse individuals into this symbolic world. Against the tradition of speculative philosophy that flourishes around 1800, one can detect the emergence of an empirically minded thought that turns its attention outward to the concreta and the flux of the empirical world. Comparing the various fields that comprise the discourse on war, the dissertation traces the contours of a new world picture and the outline of a modern world-oriented subject who is fit to inhabit it.
Citable link to this page: http://nrs.harvard.edu/urn-3:HUL.InstRepos:10318204
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