restricted access The “Lords of Life”: Fractals, Recursivity, and “Experience”

This article uses the fractal as a device for explicating the narrative strategies of Ralph Waldo Emerson’s essay “Experience.” Each of the seven “lords of life” of “Experience” incorporates aspects of its six complementary “lords,” so this article argues that each “lord”—and its corresponding section of “Experience”—represents a fractal recapitulation of the whole course of “Experience.” Applying a fractal narrative to “Experience” casts further light on the process of recursion within Emerson’s prose and on the way in which Emerson’s writing can seek to perform the methods of consciousness; the recursion of the fractal offers a lens for viewing the self-referential qualities of consciousness. Using the initial “lord” of “Illusion” as a microcosm for viewing the fractal qualities of the other “lords,” this article then examines the implications of this fractal dynamic for the themes of “Experience” as a whole, including the relationship of part and whole, the role of human partiality, and the intricacies of self-awareness.