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Modernism and Time Machines$
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Charles M. Tung

Print publication date: 2019

Print ISBN-13: 9781474431330

Published to Edinburgh Scholarship Online: January 2020

DOI: 10.3366/edinburgh/9781474431330.001.0001

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Alternate History And The Presence of Other Presents: Virginia Woolf, Philip K. Dick and Christopher Nolan

Alternate History And The Presence of Other Presents: Virginia Woolf, Philip K. Dick and Christopher Nolan

Chapter:
(p.79) 2 Alternate History And The Presence of Other Presents: Virginia Woolf, Philip K. Dick and Christopher Nolan
Source:
Modernism and Time Machines
Author(s):

Charles M. Tung

Publisher:
Edinburgh University Press
DOI:10.3366/edinburgh/9781474431330.003.0006

This chapter addresses the aesthetic exploration of historical alternatives by thinking about strange conceptions of historicity and the fantasy of alternate histories in three different texts: Woolf’s Mrs Dalloway (1925), Dick’s The Man in the High Castle (1962) and Nolan’s Interstellar (2014). Each of these texts not only thematises the condition of temporal alongsidedness but also formally structures itself by means of crosscut parallel plotlines that de-synchronise from one another. Nolan’s film uses parallel editing, normally deployed to construct simultaneity, to represent the de-synchronisation among reference frames. Woolf’s modernist text is an early model of this very specific sort of alternate history, a text that is likewise a kind of post-apocalyptic meditation on a variety of rhythms in a present interpenetrated by what might have been and what comes next. Dick’s text is like Woolf’s novel, featuring two main characters who never meet and live in timelines with differing pace, duration and sets of possibility. All of these texts are not interested simply in a mutation of a past sequence that produces a forking historical path with an altered present and future, but in the reconfiguration of alternativity, historicity and the present in the context of diverging concurrent trajectories.

Keywords:   Alternate history, parallel editing, desynchronisation, Woof, Mrs. Dalloway, Dick, Man in the High Castle, Nolan, Interstellar

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