This post explores “entanglement” (a keyword for our project), offering insight into its significance as a guiding concept for our thinking on the relationship between literary history and liberalism.
Entangled: We have proposed that one way to see the relationship of literary history and literature is as “entangled.” The OED definitions and examples (edited, below) give a sense of what is at stake in the term. “Caught” and “ensnared” evoke predation and dominance, claims against which both liberalism and literary history have had to defend themselves. “Embarrassed” and “perplexed” reveal that affective dimensions of experience are at stake in our inquiry. “Encumbered” invokes the historical importance of property (private property, national property, intellectual property) and debt to both liberalism and literary history. “Interlaced” and “Intricate” evoke aesthetics, a term that the symposium will be historicizing, in terms of how aesthetics links (formally and cognitively) literary history and liberalism. Finally “entanglement” refers to a key theory of quantum physics, which asserts that the behaviour of “two separate quantum systems” differs “from the juxtaposition of the behaviours of each considered alone.” This definition is perhaps most inspirational for our scholarly interrogation. It is an invitation to “stretch our imaginations to accept the concept of potentiality,” to imagine, that is, that the entangled careers of literary history and liberalism have both a history still to be uncovered and potentialities not yet expressed.
Selected Definitions and Quotations from the OED
a. Caught or held fast in anything tangled; ensnared.
b. Involved in difficulties; embarrassed, perplexed.
†c. Of an estate: Encumbered (obs.).
d. Interlaced; complicated, intricate.
1595 S. DANIEL First Fowre Bks. Ciuile Warres I. lxxii. sig. E, Intestine strife, of force, The apt-diuided state intangle would.
a1616 SHAKESPEARE Antony & Cleopatra (1623) IV. xv. 48 Yea, very force entangles It selfe with strength.
1677 tr. A.-N. Amelot de La Houssaie Hist. Govt. Venice 269 Your Scholars..rather intangle and perplex Councils than clear them.
1699 BP. G. BURNET Expos. 39 Articles (1700) i. 20 This is rather a flight of Metaphisicks that intangles one, than a plain and full conviction.
1750 JOHNSON Rambler No. 22. 5 Intangled in consequences which she could not foresee.
Physics. A correlation between the states of two separate quantum systems such that the behaviour of the two together is different from the juxtaposition of the behaviours of each considered alone.
[1935 E. SCHRÖDINGER in Proc. Cambr. Philos. Soc. 31 555 By the interaction the two representatives (or ψ-functions) have become entangled. To disentangle them we must gather further information by experiment… In what follows the whole of this procedure will be called the disentanglement.]
1989 A. SHIMONY in P. Davies New Physics xiii. 379/2 If we stretch our imaginations to accept the concept of potentiality, as quantum mechanics apparently requires us to do, then entanglement becomes comprehensible.