Romantic Temporality, Contingency, and Mary Shelley

Theresa M. Kelley
2008 ELH: English literary history  
How can we not feel that time percolates rather than flows? Far from flowing in laminar and continuous lines, like a well-behaved river under a bridge, upstream to downstream, time descends, turns back on itself, stops, starts, bifurcates ten times, divides, blends, caught up in whirlpools and counter-currents, hesitant, aleatory, uncertain and fluctuating, multiplied into a thousand beds like the yukon River. . . . Sudden explosions, quick crises, periods of stagnant boredom, burdensome or
more » ... ish regressions, and long blockages, but also rigorous linkages and suddenly accelerated progress, meet and blend in scientific time as in the intimacy of the soul, in meteorology as in river basins. Would we have understood such obvious facts without the theory of percolation? . . . [T]he word time [temps] goes back to the aleatory mixtures of the temperaments, of intemperate weather, of tempests and temperature. if the time of a planet and the time of a river can have such subtlety, what about historical time? We can say, at the very least, that history is chaotic, that it percolates. Simultaneously unpredictable and deterministic, its course blends all paces.
doi:10.1353/elh.0.0015 fatcat:3dhieqd4cfac7bnrl3kacj3gbu