Classic Novels by James Joyce and Virginia Woolf Contain Mathematical Mulitfractal Structures Julia Johanne Tolo January 27, 2016 Scuttlebutt, Scuttlebutt 11 Comments Academics at the Institute of Nuclear Physics in Poland put over 100 famous novels through a detailed statistical analysis and found that an “overwhelming” number of the books had a fractal structure. A fractal is a never-ending pattern that is self-similar across different scales. To determine whether the books had fractal structures, the academics looked at the variation of sentence lengths, finding that each sentence, or fragment, had a structure that resembled the whole of the book. The paper based on the study, recently published in Information Sciences, showed that certain works were more complex than others, specifically the books written in stream-of-consciousness. These could be compared to multi-fractals, according the scientists, who explained that Finnegans Wake by James Joyce had the most complex structure of all. Professor Professor Stanisław Drożdż said: “The results of our analysis of [Finnegans Wake] are virtually indistinguishable from ideal, purely mathematical multifractals.” Image via IFJ PAN. The horizontal axis represents the degree of singularity, while the vertical axis shows the spectrum of singularity. Image via IJF PAN.Sequences of sentence lengths (as measured by number of words) in four books, representative of various degrees of cascading character. Other books that had characteristics similar to multifractals include A Heartbreaking Work of Staggering Genius by Dave Eggers, Hopscotch by Julio Cortazar, The USA trilogy by John Dos Passos, The Waves by Virginia Woolf, 2666 by Roberto Bolaño and Joyce’s Ulysses. The paper made sure to note that a literary text will never have the perfect fractality of the world of mathematics, where fractals can be magnified to the infinite, because of the finite nature of a work of literature. There were some surprising works in the stream-of-consciousness genre that did not have fractal characteristics, such as Marcel Proust’s À la recherche du temps perdu and Ayn Rand’s Atlas Shrugged. Drożdż suggested that the scientists’ work may one day help assign books to genres in a “more objective” way. Professor Drożdż also noted that their findings could mean stream-of-consciousness writers uncovered fractals in nature before scientists, explaining: “Evidently, they had a kind of intuition, as it happens to great artists, that such a narrative mode best reflects ‘how nature works’ and they properly encoded this into their texts. Nature evolves through cascades and thus arranges fractally, and imprints of this we find in the sentence-length variability.” 11 Responses 2 – Classic Novels Contain Mathematical Mulitfractal Structures January 28, 2016 […] From: http://electricliterature.com/classic-novels-by-james-joyce-and-virginia-woolf-contain-mathematical-… […] Reply Rose January 28, 2016 Very interesting correlation! However, I’m not sure about any conclusion that would differentiate War and Peace from Finnigans Wake outside of the fact that James Joyce tended to write long complex sentences along with shorter ones. If the above books were put into a ‘Readability’ program, War and Peace may be ranked a 5 while Finnigans Wake may be off the charts! I’m not sure any analysis, based on writing structure would be useful beyond an English Composition course or Creative Writing course. Maybe it will become a new genre, like Haiku, which is based on structure along with content. Shame the writer didn’t describe a fractal (http://fractalfoundation.org/resources/what-are-fractals/). It is a fascinating mathematical concept that has some real-world examples. Two most important examples of fractals are snowflakes and the coast of Norway. Fractal analysis is immensely useful in many fields. Cool that someone thought to apply it to writing! Of course, what it means is yet to be determined. Is it a conscious writing style that helps the writer craft the story or an unconscious writing style that is an artifact? Could an artifact be used to improve the impact of a story? Lots of things to think about. Reply Seth January 29, 2016 So this is about sentence length? Does that really make a book more “complex?” Reply Martin R. January 29, 2016 I hasten to point out that neither Proust nor Ayn Rand are stream-of-consciousness writers. I also want to mention that the gigantic final episode of Joyce’s Ulysses contains many, many thousands of words, but only one period (and therefore, two enormous “sentences”). How this could be consistent with multi-fractals is yet another mystery deserving of a pointlessly scientific approach! Onward, yon literary empiricists! Reply Peter Kislinger February 1, 2016 Quite. Except, the last chapter is not just one sentence. There are simply no commas or fullstops. Reply Biblical Fractals January 29, 2016 “The Elijah Calling” by Ken Mentell illustrates Biblical fractals in the scriptures. It is a 5 star rated book and comes highly recommended. It can be downloaded from Amazon for free or the 487 page paperback can be bought for $17.99. http://amzn.com/B00PUA1EJQ Reply Weekend Reading: January 29, 2016 | Books@Work January 29, 2016 […] Did you hear? Classic modernist novels contain fractals, according to researchers at Poland’s Institute of Nuclear Physics. […] Reply Fractal structures found in classic novels – Insight Publications January 31, 2016 […] Recent research from the Institute of Nuclear Physics in Poland, in which over 100 literary texts were put through a series of statistical tests, suggests that many famous novels have fractal sentence structures. One of their most interesting findings, but not that surprising from a linguistic point of view, was that novels considered to be ‘stream-of-consciousness’ showed the greatest degree of complexity in their structure. Read more (and examine some fascinating visual representations of their findings) at Electric Literature. […] Reply 莎士比亞、喬伊斯與吳爾芙作品有共通點？經典小說裡藏著數學密碼！ February 17, 2016 […] 網路媒體 Electric Literature 報導，波蘭科學研究院核子物理所分析經典小說，透過把句子編碼，然後計算每句字數，發現絕大多數經典小說的結構，都符合碎形結構。 […] Reply Scientists Discover That James Joyce’s Finnegans Wake Has an Amazingly Mathematical “Multifractal” Structure | Open Culture | Notes From Away March 16, 2016 […] Trying to explain this finding in as plain English as possible, Julia Johanne Tolo at Electric Literature […] Reply Scientists Discover That James Joyce’s Finnegans Wake Has an Amazingly Mathematical “Multifractal” Structure | Golden Gate Daily March 17, 2016 […] Trying to explain this finding in as plain English as possible, Julia Johanne Tolo at Electric Literature […] Reply Leave a Reply Cancel Reply Your email address will not be published.CommentName* Email* Website Notify me of follow-up comments by email. Notify me of new posts by email.