Michael Patrick Gillespie employs concepts of post-Einsteinian physics as the metaphoric and dialectic foundation for an alternative method of interpreting literature. His central argument revolves around the notion that the most useful literary criticism is that which comes closest to the process of reading. He argues that since our reading is not circumscribed by Cartesian cause-and-effect principles, our literary criticism should not be bound by linear thinking. Drawing examples that range from the ""Book of Job"" to ""Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone"", Gillespie demonstrates how nonlinear perception vastly enhances one's ability to understand diverse forms of literature. Invoking theories from Einstein's views on relativity, quantum mechanics and chaos theories, Gillespie applies his approach to different types of literary works, including a children's fantasy, the Bible, ""The Importance of Being Earnest"", and ""Finnegan's Wake"". In each case, he compares a nonlinear model of criticism with the interpretation of established critical schools, focusing especially on elucidating both the weaknesses in those schools and the multiple legitimate textual meanings in these works. Providing theoretical grounding in the basics of the new sciences, Gillespie draws from the fundamental thinking behind these conceptions of material existence to articulate a paradigm of literary criticism that should be of interest to all literary scholars.
Michael Patrick Gillespie, Louise Edna Goeden Professor of English at Marquette University, is the author or editor of many books, most recently The Aesthetics of Chaos: Nonlinear Thinking and Contemporary Literary Criticism (UPF). A. Nicholas Fargnoli, professor of theology and English at Molloy College in Rockville Centre, New York, is president of the James Joyce Society and founder of the Finnegans Wake Society of New York. He is coauthor of James Joyce A to Z and editor of James Joyce: A Documentary Volume, among other works.