It’s About Time

Matthew M. DeForrest, Ph.D., Professor of English, Johnson C. Smith University

This seminar will consider the way we perceive and depict time and how these frame the way we perceive and interact with everything. This is a more complex issue than it initially seems. While Time is a known concept — a part of Einstein’s Time-Space — it is difficult to define without referencing itself. In addition, Time-Space captures the strange relationships between time and space (e.g., that the more you have of one, the less you have of the other) and how conceiving time as a dimension rather than the measure of a progression challenges our comfortable but incomplete view.

As if those challenges weren’t enough, different cultures perceive and react to time differently. Some view it as a linear progression. Some view it as cyclical. Some view it as some combination of the two.

This seminar will examine what time is, from a scientific and cultural standpoint, then consider creative works and examine what they can tell us about the way time is perceived within the work and was involved in the creation of the work itself. These considerations stretch past considering the seconds ticking away on our clocks. “And Wild for to Hold,” for example, is a work that chronicles what happens when a group of well meaning scientists remove Ann Boleyn from history and moving her to their facility situated outside of normal Time-Space. The two groups’ understanding of time and one’s role within it raise important ethical questions while considering how the scientists and the queen view time differently. H. G. Wells’ The Time Machine, the progenitor of all time machine stories, raises issues about social and biological Darwinian evolution.