Tag Archives: exactitude

Calvino’s Multiplicity

1 Mar

The final quality of writing on which Calvino lectures is Multiplicity.

He first introduces the concept of Multiplicity not with a definition, but rather with an example.

An excerpt from the novel That Awful Mess of the Via Merulana by Carlo Gadda:

“He sustained, among other things, that the unforeseen catastrophes are never the consequence or the effect, if you prefer, of a single motive, of a cause singular; but they are rather like a whirlpool, a cyclonic point of depression in the consciousness of the world, towards which a whole multitude of converging causes have contributed.” (pg. 103)

Calvino later goes on to explain that he is lecturing on “…the contemporary novel as an encyclopedia, as a method of knowledge, and above all as a network of connections between the events, the people, and the things of the world.” (pg.105) In other words, Multiplicity.

I feel as though the term “network” is the important one in this definition because Gadda in his writings composes in such a way that he tries to incorporate as many subjects as possible that begin with the central point and wind up elsewhere. Gadda’s personal enthusiasm for engineering and other subjects such as philosophy help to explain why he tried to describe the world as a “knot.” An eccentric character, Gadda expressed all of his anxieties through his writing, and did so by babbling on until his thoughts were tangled and it was nearly impossible to find the a way back to the initial idea.

Calvino does not expressly say that his emblem for Multiplicity is an encyclopedia, but I feel as though it is safe to say that this is what he emphasizes as a representation of his quality. Like an encyclopedia, Multiplicity is truly characterized by a plethora of information all in one place, almost in an overwhelming sense. Calvino does explicitly  say, however, that he would like to pass to the next millennium a literature that has absorbed the taste for mental orderliness and exactitude, the intelligence of poetry, but at the same time the science of philosophy. This would not be possible without some sense of Multiplicity, even if the education and collection of these concepts and thoughts was over a period of time through a varying number of works of literature and media.

The aspect of Multiplicity to which I most closely relate, or from which I obtain the greatest aesthetic, is that of its attribute of being overwhelming. In terms of literature that I have personally experienced, Jane Eyre is what comes to mind when I think of Multiplicity. Although there is an underlying and relatively easily detectable storyline, the text itself is rich with details and seemingly unnecessary thoughts or descriptions to the point where the reader has to return and read each line over again. Even though I may prefer more concise stories and appreciate when the sequence of events is of a timely fashion, I personally have a tendency toward Multiplicity- the overstock of information and details in a singular point.


28 Feb

The emblem I chose to represent Exactitude is a Rubik’s cube.

This puzzle, invented in 1974 is the ultimate emblem of Exactitude. In order to “solve” the puzzle, one must make each side of the cube solid with one of six colors. Although there are multiple ways to solve a Rubik’s cube, all methods are algorithms- they require exact and specific steps in order to sort the colors to their appropriate sides.

The algorithms themselves are an example of Exactitude, but so is the movement required to rotate the sections of the cube. Divided into three-by-three square cubes, the entire puzzle is composed of 27 individual cubes that rotate on two axes. The algorithms require a code, and each side, direction and layer has its own letter, so a string of instructions can look like this:

middle edge case 1U R U R’ U’ F’ U’ Fmiddle edge case 2U’ F’ U’ F U R U R’

The cubes cannot be turned on diagonal axes, which is part of the challenge. Their limited ability to turn only on an X or Y axis is part of how I feel these puzzles fall under the quality of Exactitude because of their constraints and requirement to be solved a certain, or exact, way.


28 Feb

The graphical element I chose to represent Exactitude is a grid, or the system of grids used in design.

A grid is a system of guidelines that help the designer to align elements in relation to each other. The purpose of using a grid system in design is for the creation of order, hierarchy and specificity of layout and art. A grid is a great representation of Exactitude because it serves as a type of constraining system that simultaneously allows for and enforces structure on a design. Order is important so that the viewer sees what the artist wishes for them to see first, exactly according to their plan. In other words, they employ Exactitude to ensure that their piece of work is interpreted correctly so as to evoke the desired aesthetic effect.

Grids do not always need to be strictly followed,  but they do, when used well, enhance the quality and balance of an image, further supporting the quality of Exactitude in literature. While stories are not always arranged in the most logical of fashions, they are in some sequence of order. The most understandable and sensible stories are those that do adhere to a more strict order, which is a grid in design, and this therefore enhances the reader or viewer’s ability to better comprehend what is happening in a piece of work.

E-Lit Example

28 Feb

The E-Lit example that I chose to represent Exactitude was “Endemic Battle” by  Geof Huth.

I feel as though this piece of E-Lit represents Exactitude is because it is based on and around the pixels of a computer screen. It builds off of a singular pixel and each letter or character is structured by pixels that are nothing but exact in their placement. Pixels by nature are exact because of the way they fit together, but do not quite touch. They create images that only allow for structured placement, especially with pixels of the size in this piece of E-Lit. Because of the large-sized pixels, no image is allowed to have a rounded edge, therefore implying, if only subtly, extreme geometric precision and Exactitude in each of these characters and lines.

Even the aesthetics of the piece, more specifically the colors, black and white, create a sense of Exactitude. There is no stronger contrast than that of black and white against each other. They are at the farthest ends of the color spectrum, and therefore there is no question as to the extent of their contrast. This, in my mind, is another aspect of this piece that implies Exactitude due to the definite line that is created at the seam of the black and white pixels next to each other.

Not only is the piece precise in aesthetics and design, but it is also exact in the way that the text is displayed one character or word at a time. Each action is deliberate so as to create the most exact and precise experience for the viewer possible by guiding where the eye looks at every moment of the piece.

It is for these implied and explicit aesthetic reasons that I believe this piece of E-Lit is the picture of Exactitude- a perfect example of the power of direction and deliberateness.


Calvino’s Exactitude

26 Feb

The third quality that Calvino presents is Exactitude. According to Calvino, Exactitude means three things above all:

1) a well-defined and well-calculated plan for the work in question

2) an evocation of clear, incisive, memorable visual images

3) a language as precise as possible both in choice of words and in expression of the subtleties of thought and imagination

The polarity of Exactitude is defined by its contrast with vagueness, or lack of detail. Calvino expresses through other literary examples the quality of Exactitude. For example, he draws upon Leopardi who maintained that the more vague and imprecise language is, the more poetic it becomes. I interpret this to mean not that language with exact meaning cannot be poetic, but that it simply comes across as being more factual and straight forward than that of language that paints a picture with flowery and extraneous details.

The emblem chosen by Calvino for Exactitude is a crystal. He chooses this because of its geometric composition which is based on the contrast of order and disorder. He says that a work of literature is a portion of the universe in which the existent work crystallizes into a form and acquires meaning, that it is then alive as an organism.

An example I feel demonstrates Calvino’s quality of Exactitude are the Harry Potter books. Not only have they come alive as a living organism due to widespread popularity, but they perfectly demonstrate each of the three attributes that Calvino expresses as defining Exactitude. There is most definitely a well-defined and calculated plan as there are seven books in the series, each of which is part of the whole saga, yet is conclusive and directive in and of itself; there are undoubtedly vivid, clear and memorable images painted for the reader through exceptional description, yet J.K. Rowling still leaves room for the imagination to fill in the gaps; and finally the language is so precise in choice of words and expression that the reader has no question as to the happenings of the current thought or overall point to the story. This achievement is especially commendable because of the way that Rowling constructs each story so that it is in a way a mystery or puzzle until events unfold so that the story comes full circle for the reader.