Contingency in philosophy and history, 1650-1800

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This essay traces the history of a narrative and historiographic tension, of the inevitability that only appears after the fact. It offers a history of ‘contingency’, the modern affect that accompanies effects, the double-sensation of the inevitability of historical necessity with the knowledge that things might have been different. Tracing contingency through the literature and history of eighteenth-century Europe, it examines the historical development of one influential strategy whereby time turned up as an epistemological problem - and as a powerful technique leveraged by novelists and historians alike. Authors considered include John Dryden, Thomas Hobbes, Blaise Pascal, Adrien Richer, Frederick II, Horace Walpole, and Laurence Sterne.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)419-436
Number of pages18
JournalTextual Practice
Issue number3
StatePublished - Mar 16 2018
Externally publishedYes

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Literature and Literary Theory


  • Complexity
  • Contingency
  • Horace walpole
  • John dryden
  • Laurence sterne
  • Thomas hobbes


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