The Multiverse Essay

762 words - 3 pages

Survivors of Oceanic Flight 815 from the popular television show Lost are thrown by a hydrogen bomb explosion into a multiverse where history has been altered to make it seem as if they never crashed on the island. Travelers stepping on the “Einstein-Rosen-Podolsky Bridge,” in all five seasons of the television show Sliders, enter through a vortex, or wormhole, and into a multiverse. Crewmembers of the Federation Starship Enterprise from Star Trek, in an episode entitled “Mirror, Mirror," are swapped with their evil counterparts due to a transporter mishap, and as a result, also enter a multiverse. These three instances illustrate how the multiverse has now become commonplace in science fiction allowing us to consider what is beyond observable reality. The multiverse is used not only in television shows, but also in films like The Wizard of Oz, Back to the Future, and Donnie Darko. It’s employed beyond the screen while remaining integral to science fiction literature that can range from The Epic of Gilgamesh, Brazen Head (1955), and even in DC and Marvel Comics. More than a widespread cultural phenomenon, the multiverse stretches “the fabric of reality” (Deutsch, 1997) through scientific discourses of and about observable reality.
Philosopher and psychologist William James, it is often claimed, first defined the science (fiction) multiverse in 1895 when he said, “Visible nature is all plasticity and indifference, a multiverse, as one might call it, and not a universe” (10). My presentation makes two contributions to his claim, and, for that matter, all later uses of the multiverse in science and science fiction by contending that the multiverse is a much older Sophistic device. I call this the “rhetorical metaverse,” claiming that such thoughts stretch back to the 5th century BCE. In other words, the Greek Sophists held a similar awareness that “visible nature is all plasticity.” My second contention is that whereas the rhetorical metaverse relied strictly on oral and textual literacies (i.e. technologies), contemporary multiverses are expressed through more “advanced” technologies and rhetorics.
My presentation outlines the history of the multiverse from a rhetorical perspective as a means to fully contextualize the use of this trope in common cultural representations. The history I present begins with an illustration of the Sophistic use of the metaverse as presented by Plato in the Phaedrus, and by Gorgias in the Encomium of Helen. I then consider how the Progymnasmata...

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