Publisher Description

Poetics as a Theory of Everything aims to take the reader on a cognitive journey into a universe full of psychedelic meaning.  Operating at the intersection of the science of complex systems, science fiction and philosophy, the book explores what even our most artificial cultural and conceptual artifacts (such as poems and metaphors) and the most illegitimate offspring of the human brain (such as drug-induced hallucinations) can tell us about the natural processes that shape living creatures and other systems.

Poetics as a Theory of Everything brings cultural theory and philosophy to a broad audience, featuring an innovative design, interactive scrolling and zooming illustrations, pop-up hypertextual asides, an embedded flip-book and video, and a range of assorted other illustrations by the author.

The book begins by engaging current obsessions about imminent apocalypse-- symptoms of the postmodern condition-- and follows them into their roots, which extend all the way to our common predicament as living beings.  Subsequent chapters take up constraint (a fundamental creative principle in poetry no less than in thermodynamics) and meaning (understood as a Rube Goldberg-like process whereby systems interact with their fellow systems, subsystems, and environments).  The book ends lyrically with a series of prose sonnets and illustrations that elaborate these principles.

A secondary book, "Sustainability and Apocalypticism," weaves through Poetics, taking the philosophical themes in a historical direction. 


Throughout, text and images embody a principle compatible both with systems theory and a kind of Daoism: that the same process that leads to the emergence, consolidation and elaboration of form also leads to its fragmentation and dissolution.

About the Author

Ira Livingston is Professor of Humanities and Media Studies, and Director of Poetics Lab, at Pratt Institute in Brooklyn, New York.  He is the author of several books, including Where God Comes From: Reflections on Science, Systems and the Sublime (Zer0 Books, 2012).

Science & Nature
May 18
Poetics Lab
Ira Livingston

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