Being ‘Becomes You’: Actualizing Possible Worlds in Carroll, Flaubert, and Durrell

           Possible Worlds Theory originated as a concept on the field of philosophy as a means of considering alternative realities if x were to occur rather than y, and has since been adapted by narrative theorists in an attempt to conceptualize issues ranging from imaginary events in the literary text to ‘fictionality’. My research aims to expand the scope of Possible World Theory so as to broaden the potential function of possible worlds in order to address their potentiality for individual self-amelioration in the ‘actual,’ or tangible, physical world wherein human life exists. I build on several prominent theories by Northrop Frye, Gilles Deleuze, Henri Bergson, and Ruth Ronen, and I proceed with the line of reasoning that Being is known, although only in part, intuitively to the cognitive thinker, and that one’s processes of becoming in a possible world have significant implications in the actual world.

           The first body chapter addresses Possible Worlds Theory according to its current usage in Lewis Carroll’s Through the Looking Glass (1871). I underscore the philosophical and narrative theory methods for addressing alternative possibilities, and from there I propose a new method with which one can both analyze the literary text, and consequently the potentiality for individual betterment in ‘a life,’ or Being.

           My second chapter discusses Frye’s theory of the universe being crafted in a void in the context of Lawrence Durrell’s short story, “Zero” (1939). The story begins with an equation whose quantitative conclusion is 3a=0, and I consider this from a qualitative perspective, that ‘something-ness is nothingness,’ and subsequently, ‘nothingness is something-ness.’ I argue that between every actual and possible world there exists a void, an intermediary, where one processes data from the possible world, so as to integrate such knowledge into the actual world; and likewise, that perceptions of the actual world are used in the construction of the possible world.

           In my final body chapter, I discuss dualisms in detail, including Being/non-Being. I define Being as all that exists in the infinite, open plane of space, including entities/non-entities, Being/non-Being, presence/absence, imaginary/actual, to name a few. I touch upon the creation of the universe in the Big Bang, and argue that though we cannot verify with certainty that the universe is infinite and open, we accept this premise based on empirical evidence that suggests this to be so. Thus, if we consider Frye’s argument that the universe was created in a void, and that we know the nature of the universe as one of multiplicity and substance in duration, then the void is a plethora of ‘something-ness’ and the space in which the void was embedded is infinite. Therefore, if Being is all this Is, including that which is not tangible—that which is psychical—then Being is all, and consequently infinite. I call upon Gustave Flaubert’s “Un coeur simple” to oppose the narrative theorist’s notion that data of possible worlds are merely non-entities, and offer in its place the possibility for these imaginary spaces to shape one’s own Being via processes of becoming within the psychical space of the mind.

           I present my research in such a way as to challenge current usage of Possible Worlds Theory, and to suggest alternative, not to mention, profitable new ways to consider this dynamic theoretical conception of alternative worlds, or realities. My intention is to offer a more concrete notion of what ‘Being’ is—and could be, and I support my argument with the help of Bergsonian duration and intuition in the context of becoming in possible worlds. With a combination of philosophy and physics, I offer the notion that one can know intuitively fragments of one’s Being, an infinite force both in space and in the potentiality for epistemic expansion and self-amelioration via becoming.

Sheena Jary
Western University

Sheena’s thesis, “Being ‘Becomes You’: Actualizing Possible Worlds in Carroll, Flaubert, and Durrell”, will soon be available for viewing on Scholarship@Western.