Multiple selves and worlds
in Jeanette Winterson
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This chapter focuses on Winterson's seventh novel, Gut Symmetries (1997), the story of three narrator-characters, Alice, Jove and Stella, the first of whom is a Cambridge postgraduate student of New Physics who has just won ‘two years of research funding at Princeton’. Consequently, at the beginning of the novel, we find her on board the QE2, giving a lecture on Paracelsus as a way of paying her passage from Southampton to New York. During the cruise she meets and falls in love with a fellow lecturer, Jove, the middle-aged, second-generation Italian-American Professor of Superstring Theory at ‘the Institute for Advanced Studies, Princeton’, where she is also going to work. Jove is at that time married to Stella. This meeting is one of the many coincidences that pins the lives of the three characters to each other and to other characters in the novel, including their ancestors. The whole novel is structured by means of similar random coincidences into a complex web of ‘symmetries’ comparable to the chaotic arrangement of elements in fractals.

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