Date of Award

Spring 5-2024

Document Type


Degree Name

Master of Arts (MA)



First Advisor

Justine Van Meter

Second Advisor

Joanna Levin

Third Advisor

Jan Osborn


This thesis explores the spatio-temporal landscapes of Ted Chiang’s “The Story of Your Life” and Tom Stoppard’s Arcadia. Both authors engage with intersections between past, present, and future, challenging readers to reframe the conventions of linear chronology in favor of a fluid, palimpsestic approach to time and space that reflects the past and future’s ongoing influence in constructing our impression of the “now.” To illustrate this temporal blending, Chiang and Stoppard implement alternative language modes predicated upon visual and sensory rhetorics, centralizing the politics of human perception as dually illuminating and obfuscating reality. This project employs an interdisciplinary approach, adopting elements of literary, thermodynamic, and astrophysical theory as avenues for interpreting the structure and content of both texts. This mixed-discipline approach also aids in navigating both authors’ philosophical positionalities with respect to the relationship between human will and determinism. While both Chiang and Stoppard affirm some degree of inevitability in the future’s unfolding, there remains a degree of entropy embedded in both texts that allows for a more optimistic reading of both texts’ respective conclusions, one wherein human agency exists in an ongoing dialectic with the force of an essential or universal destiny.

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Creative Commons License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 4.0 License.

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