Entropy in the Rise and Fall of a Japanese-American Dystopia – Karen Yamashita’s “Through the Arc of the Rain Forest”


Stephen Pepper first discussed the term "root metaphor" as the foundation of successful world hypotheses. The idea of a root metaphor as a metaphysical archetype can be expanded and used in literary analysis. For this paper we will rely mostly on Eric Zencey's theory of "Entropy as Root Metaphor," and will use the Second Law of Thermodynamics for a close reading and analysis of Karen Tei Yamashita's novel "Through the Arc of the Rain Forest." The world view and perspectives for the future depicted by Yamashita are as relevant today, as they were when the novel was first published. Her inclusion of Japanese characters and constant hinting at Japan throughout the novel makes it easy to identify aspects of Japanese culture that highly influence the development of the plot. As a result, we will look at inner/uchi and outer/soto factors of influence. We will also show how Matacao plastic (a newly discovered matter that triggers the entire plot) acts as generating substance for entropy, which in turn becomes a generator itself, making entropy an event horizon, where uchi and soto meet. Using entropy as root metaphor, we will uncover how it works in the novel, emphasizing the dystopian tones brought to the narrative by technological advancements within the plot. The paper aims to bridge literary analysis and physics, while underlining the Japanese cultural elements that shape the entropy in Yamashita's narrative.

Author Information
Andreea-Larisa Avram, University of Bucharest, Romania

Paper Information
Conference: ACAS2018
Stream: Japanese Studies

This paper is part of the ACAS2018 Conference Proceedings (View)
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Posted by James Alexander Gordon