Alfred Jarry

from Exploits and Opinions
of Doctor Faustroll, Pataphysician

8: Definition

An epiphenomenon is that which is superinduced upon a phenomenon.

Pataphysics, whose etymological spelling should be έπι (μετà τà φυσικά) and actual orthography ‘pataphysics, preceded by an apostrophe so as to avoid a simple pun, [1] is the science of that which is superinduced upon metaphysics, whether within or beyond the latter’s limitations, extending as far beyond metaphysics as the latter extends beyond physics. Ex: an epiphenomenon being often accidental, pataphysics will be, above all, the science of the particular, despite the common opinion that the only science is that of general. Pataphysics will examine the laws governing exceptions, and will explain the universe supplementary to this one; or, less ambitiously, will describe a universe which can be—and perhaps should be—envisaged in the place of the traditional one, since the laws that are supposed to have been discovered in the traditional universe are also correlations of exceptions, albeit more frequent ones, but in any case accidental data which, reduced to the status of unexceptional exceptions, possess no longer even the virtue of originality.

DEFINITION. Pataphysics is the science of imaginary solutions which symbolically attributes the properties of objects, described by their virtuality, to their lineaments.

Contemporary science is founded upon the principle of induction: most people have seen a certain phenomenon precede or follow some other phenomenon most often, and conclude therefrom that it will ever be thus. Apart from other considerations, this is true only in the majority of cases, depends upon the point of view, and is codified only for convenience—if that! Instead of formulating the law of the fall of a body toward a center, how far more apposite would be the law of the ascension of a vacuum toward a periphery, a vacuum being considered a unit of non‑density, a hypothesis far less arbitrary than the choice of a concrete unit of positive density such as water?

For even this body is a postulate and an average man’s point of view, and in order that its qualities, if not its nature, should remain fairly constant, it would be necessary to postulate that the height of human beings should remain more or less constant and mutually equivalent. Universal assent is already a quite miraculous and incomprehensible prejudice. Why should anyone claim that the shape of a watch is round—a manifestly false proposition—since it appears in profile as a narrow rectangular construction, elliptic on three sides; and why the devil should one only have noticed its shape at the moment of looking at the time? —Perhaps under the pretext of utility. But a child who draws a watch as a circle will also draw a house as a square, as a façade, without any justification, of course; because, except perhaps in the country, he will rarely see an isolated building, and even in a street the façades have the appearance of very oblique trapezoids.

We must, in fact, inevitably admit that the common herd (including small children and women) is too dimwitted to comprehend elliptic equations, and that its members are at one in a so‑called universal assent because they are capable of perceiving only those curves having a single focal point, since it is easier to coincide with one point rather than with two. These people communicate and achieve equilib­rium by the outer edge of their bellies, tangentially. But even the common herd has learned that the real universe is composed of ellipses, and tradesmen keep their wine in barrels rather than cylinders.

So that we may not abandon, through digression, our usual example of water, let us reflect, in this connection, upon the irreverence of the common herd whose instinct sums up the adepts of the science of pataphysics in the following phrase:

1 A simple pun in French, e.g., “patte à physique.”

SOURCE: Jarry, Alfred. Definition [of ’Pataphysics, from Exploits and Opinions of Doctor Faustroll, Pataphysician, chap. 8], in Evergreen Review Reader 1957-1967: A Ten-Year Anthology (New York: Grove Press, Inc., 1968), pp. 310-311. Illustrations from original publication omitted here. The entire text can also be found in the book Exploits and Opinions of Doctor Faustroll, Pataphysician: A Neo-Scoentific Novel, translated & annotated by Simon Watson Taylor, introduction by Roger Shattuck (Boston: Exact Change, 1996), pp. 21-24; originally published in Selected Works of Alfred Jarry, edited by Roger Shattuck and Simon Watson Taylor (New York: Grove Press, 1965), pp. 192-194.

Pataphysique in men's room

Photo taken in men’s room of used book store in western Massachusetts
© Ralph Dumain

On this site:

Patalogic in the Garden of Sidamo by R. Dumain

Formal Logic of Pataphysics by René Daumal

Laughter by Marcel Schwob

Magritte, la Pataphysique et son Collège

Alfred Jarry, the Uninvited Guest, Achras & Ubu by Jill Fell

Alfred Jarry, Marcel Duchamp, ’Pataphysics, & the Fourth Dimension (excerpts) by Andrew Hugill

The Definitive Time Machine: A Critical Edition of H.G. Wells’s Scientific Romance
(Contents + notes on Jarry)

Alfred Jarry’s “How to Construct a Time Machine”: A Web Guide

Martin Gardner, Mathematical Games, & the Fourth Dimension (web guide & bibliography)

Humor & Philosophy: Selected Bibliography

Irony, Humor, & Cynicism Study Guide

Ars Combinatoria Study Guide

Irony, Paradox, & Reductio ad Absurdum: Selected Online Sources

Philosophical and Universal Languages, 1600-1800, and Related Themes: Selected Bibliography

James Joyce & Alfred Jarry

Jorge Luis Borges: Selected Study Materials on the Web

Italo Calvino: A Select Bibliography

Science Fiction & Utopia Research Resources: A Selective Work in Progress

Surrealism: Selected Links


’Pataphysics @ Ĝirafo (blog)

The Crucifixion Considered As An Uphill Bicycle Race” by Alfred Jarry

Read by miette on November 28, 2007 (with sound file)

Alfred Jarry: The Carnival of Being (video, exhibition, The Morgan Library & Museum, July 22, 2020)

Alfred Jarry: The Carnival of Being - The Morgan Library & Museum (exhibition web site)

The Twisted Legacy of Alfred Jarry’s Monsters” by Will Fenstermaker, The Nation, June 8, 2020.

The Assassination of John Fitzgerald Kennedy Considered as a Downhill Motor Race” by J.G. Ballard

Read by miette on December 4, 2007 (with sound file)

Evergreen Review, vol. 4, no. 13, May-Hune 1960: What Is ’Pataphysics

Contributors - The Evergreen Review, Issue 102 (1999): James G. Ballard & Alfred Jarry

Functions of Science in French Fiction
by Arthur B. Evans

Maxwell's Silver Hammer - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

The Beatles - Maxwell's Silver Hammer Lyrics | Rock Genius

Pataphysics and Fictive Art

Illposed Software | Philosophy

The Principals of 'Pataphysical Programming by Darko Svitek, Chief Philosopher at Illposed Software

PRASCAL: a pataphysical programming language by Andrew Hugill and Hongji Yang

Andrew Hugill

’Pataphysics and Computing by Andrew Hugill

Words Made Flesh: Code, Culture, Imagination (2005)
by Florian Cramer

Pataphors (Paul Avion)

Pataphor and Pataphors: Official Site

Jootsy Calculus

Ludic Society

Musée Patamécanique

Oulipo | Ouvroir de littérature potentielle

Atlas Press

Adventures In ’Pataphysics by Alfred Jarry

The Journal of Pataphysical Reviews, volume 3
1. Issue 1
2. Issue 2
3. Issue 3


Repository (downloadable e-texts in several languages). Selected English texts: (Facebook)


SAAJ – Société des Amis d’Alfred Jarry

The London Institute of 'Pataphysics - Introduction (<—defunct, but accessible here)

The London Institute of 'Pataphysics (Facebook)

Supermale Accelerationism” by ‘Benjamin’, No Useless Leniency (blog), 22 May 2014

I wanna be Alfred Jarry --- wishful thinking by Rainer Ganahl -(exactly 100 years late)

Dead Links

Andrew Jaffe

King Ubu: Director's Notes by Anthony Black

INTERVIEW: Marc Lowenthal of Wakefield Press, 7 July 2010

Pataphysical Discourse in the German Bildungsroman by Christian Anderson (Northeastern Modern Language Association Conference, 2008)

Symbolism and Beyond. An Introduction to Jarry’s Life, Work and Poetics

The Pataphysical Calendar of Alfred Jarry

Definitely Maybe ('Pataphysics Resources)

Novum Organum du Collège de ’Pataphysique

Pataphysique de Nautia

Alfred Jarry & James Joyce

Anastasi, William. 2000. “Jarry, Joyce, Duchamp and Cage,” Tout-fait: The Marcel Duchamp Studies Online Journal, May 2000.

Anastasi, William; Seidel, Michael. “Jarry in Joyce: A Conversation,” Joyce Studies Annual, Vol. 6, Summer 1995, pp. 39-58.

Corcoran, Marlena G. “Drawing Our Attention to Jarry, Duchamp, and Joyce: The Manuscript/Art of William Anastasi,” James Joyce Quarterly, Vol. 32, No. 3/4, Spring - Summer,1995, pp. 659-671.

William Anastasi’s Pataphysical Society: Jarry, Joyce, Duchamp, and Cage; edited by Aaron Levy and Jean-Michel Rabaté, with an introduction by Osvaldo Romberg. Philadelphia: Slought Books, 2005. Contents.

See also materials at Slought.

Additional Bibliography

Beaumont, Keith. Alfred Jarry: A Critical and Biographical Study. Leicester: Leicester University Press, 1984.

Beha, Christopher R. “Oulipo Ends Where the Work Begins,” The Believer, GAMES issue, September 2006 (vol. 4, no. 7).

Bök, Christian. 'Pataphysics: the Poetics of an Imaginary Science. Evanston, IL: Northwestern University Press, 2002.

Brotchie, Alastair. Alfred Jarry: a Pataphysical Life. Cambridge, MA: MIT Press, 2011.

Brotchie, Alastair, ed. A True History of the College of ’Pataphysics: With Manifestos, Statutes, Calendar and Documents, translated by Paul Edwards. London: Atlas, 1995.

Calvino, Italo. “Prose and Anticombinatorics,” in Oulipo: A Primer of Potential Literature, translated and edited by Warren F. Motte, Jr. (Lincoln: University of Nebraska Press, 1986), pp. 143-152.

Duncan, Dennis. “Calvino, Llull, Lucretius: Two Models of Literary Combinatorics,” Comparative Literature 64.1 (2012): 93-109.

Fell, Jill. Alfred Jarry. London: Reaktion Books Ltd, 2010.

Fell, Jill. Alfred Jarry: an Imagination in Revolt. Madison, NJ: Fairleigh Dickinson University Press, 2005.

Fell, Jill. “Merde and Diamonds: Alfred Jarry’s Les minutes de sable mémorial and César-Antechrist,” in Symbolist Objects: Materiality and Subjectivity at the Fin-de-Siècle, edited by C.I.R. O’Mahony (High Wycombe, UK: Rivendale Press, 2009), pp. 74-92.

Fisher, Ben. The Pataphysician's Library: an Exploration of Alfred Jarry's Livres Pairs. Liverpool: Liverpool University Press, 2000.

Gil, Jesus Borrego. “Borges à la lettre,” Dossiers du Collège de ’pataphysique, no. 26, 8 June 1964, pp. 71-72. ISSN 0530-959X

Hugill, Andrew. 'Pataphysics: a Useless Guide. Cambridge, MA: MIT Press, 2012. See esp.:

pataphysical museums, pp. 30-31
pataphysical science (with speculative computing), pp. 34-37
literature, pp. 48-51
science fiction, pp. 72-75
Marcel Duchamp: meta-irony, p. 161
Jorge Luis Borges, pp. 170-172.
James Joyce, pp. 172-174.
Alfred Jarry, Marcel Duchamp, ’Pataphysics, & the Fourth Dimension (excerpts); pp. 158-159, 214-216

Jarry, Alfred. Adventures in ’Pataphysics, edited by Alastair Brotchie & Paul Edwards, translated by Paul Edwards & Antony Melville. London: Atlas Press, 2001. (Atlas Anti-classic; 8. Collected Works of Alfred Jarry; I) Contents:

Editors’ Note 8
Introduction 11
Lintel 23
Funeral Lieder 27
Three Antiques of the Mage 31
Puppet Play (The Autoclete [35-39], Phonograph, Art and Science) 35
                      [Alfred Jarry, the Uninvited Guest, Achras & Ubu]
Lullaby 47
Opium 50
The Regularity of the Reliquary 53
Tapestries 56
The Five Senses 60
The Man with the Axe 64
The Prolegomena to Haldernablou (Sodom, Vulpian and Aster) 65
The Paralipomena (Pilgrim, While they were singing, In the name of the Father) 87
The Prolegomena to Caesar-Antichrist (St. Peter speaks, Ubu speaks) 99
CAESAR-ANTICHRIST (Prologal Act) 105
Concluding Prologue 115
The Hourglass 118
Introduction 123
ACT I: The Prologal Act — The Reliquary 131
First Interval 133
ACT II: The-Heraldic Act — Orle 135
Second Interval 147
ACT III: The Earthly Act — Ubu Rex 149
Third Interval 181
ACT IV: The Last Act (Judgement) — Taurobolium ... 183
Postact 193
To Be and To Live 199
Visions of the Present and Future 202
Time in Art 206
Commentary and Instructions for the Practical Construction of the Time Machine 211
Introduction 221
The New Stamps 227
The Strongest Men 228
The Census 229
Edgar Allan Poe in Action 229
The Sand Man 23
The Killer Pedestrian 232
The Killer Pedestrian — Conclusion 234
The Suppression of the Sabre 235
The Human Sacrifices of 14 July 238
Experimental Psychology and the French Policeman 239
The French Policeman — Appendix 241
Women’s Voting-cards 242
Speculations 244
Cynegetics of the Omnibus 245
Beating Women 247
Anthropophagy 250
On Pests: The Shuttlecock 252
The Flag 253
Extending the Paris Orbital Railway 256
The Habits of the Drowned 257
Communication from a Military Man 259
The King’s Appendix 261
Appendix to the Appendix 262
The Right to Criticise 263
Beggars at Train Stations 265
Road Signs of Moral Science 266
The Swansong 268
Notes to Black Minutes 270
Notes to Caesar-Antichrist 304
Notes to Essays 312
Notes to Siloquies 321
Other Works by Alfred Jarry published by Atlas Press 331
Atlas Anti-Classics 332

Jarry, Alfred. “Commentary and Instructions for the Practical Construction of the Time Machine,” translated and annotated by Paul Edwards, in Adventures in ’Pataphysics, edited by Alastair Brotchie & Paul Edwards, translated by Paul Edwards & Antony Melville (London: Atlas Press, 2001), pp. 211-218, 318-320. (Atlas Anti-classic; 8. Collected Works of Alfred Jarry; I)

Jarry, Alfred. "Elements of Pataphysics" [from Exploits and Opinions...], translated by Gio Clairval, in The Big Book of Science Fiction: The Ultimate Collection, edited and with an introduction by Ann and Jeff VanderMeer (New York: Vintage Books, 2016), pp. 30-36.

Lennon, Nigey. Alfred Jarry: the Man with the Axe, with illustrations by Bill Griffith. Los Angeles: Panjandrum Books, 1984. Reprint: Northport, NY: AirStream Books, 2011.

Noonan, Will. "From Shandyism to Pataphysics: Sternean influence in Alfred Jarry’s Gestes et opinions du Docteur Faustroll, Pataphysicien," in Shandean Humour in English and German Literature and Philosophy, edited by Klaus Vieweg, James Vigus, and Kathleen M. Wheeler (London: Legenda, Modern Humanities Research Association and Maney Publishing, 2013), pp. 143-161.

Nowviskie, Bethany Paige. Speculative Computing: Instruments For Interpretive Scholarship. PhD dissertation, Department of English, University of Virginia, May 2004.

Oulipo: A Primer of Potential Literature, translated and edited by Warren F. Motte, Jr. Lincoln: University of Nebraska Press, 1986.

’Pataphysics Unrolled, edited by Katie L. Price and Michael R. Taylor. University Park, PA: The Pennsylvania State University Press, 2022.

List of Illustrations / vii
Acknowledgments / ix
Editors’ Note / xi
Introduction: ‘Unrolled by the Saliva and Teeth of the Water’ / Katie L. Price / 1
Part 1: “And Behold, the Wallpaper of Faustroll’s Body”: Jarry’s Pataphysical Invitation
1. Twisted Witz: Experiments in Psychopathology and Humor by Dr. Faustroll and His Pataphysical Progeny/ John Heon / 19
2. Pataphallics in Jarry’s Novels / Jean-Michel Rabaté / 37
3. Wartime Pataphysics: Postwar Surrealism, the Main á Plume Group, and Boris Rybak’s Intraphysics / Catherine Hansen / 46
4. Marcel Duchamp and the Collège de ’Pataphysique / Marc Décimo, Translated by Anne M. Mulhall /
5. The Potential Energy of Texts [ΔU = −PΔV] / Craig Dworkin / 79
Part 2: “Like a Musical Score, All Art and All Science”: Pataphysics After Jarry and Beyond the Collège
6. Pataphysics in Philadelphia: The Strange Case of James E. Brewton / Michael R. Taylor / 97
7. Circumstantial Evidence: Pataphysical Inflexions in Edward Dorn’s Gunslinger and bpNichol’s Probable Systems / Steve McCaffery / 117
8. Beyond “Maxwell’s Silver Hammer”: Pataphysics and Popular Music / Marcus O’Dair / 135
9. Art and the Pataphysics of Exception: Or, How a Sieve Becomes a Time Machine / Ted Hiebert / 153
Part 3: “Written in the Curves of the Limbs”: Pataphysical Criticism
10. Reading, Writing, and Rhythmatic / Jerome McGann / 173
11. The Patacritical Demon, Two Decades Later / Johanna Drucker / 193
12. Reflections on Applied Research in Patacriticism: Prism and Reading’s Shape / Brandon Walsh / 203
13. The Pataquerical Imagination: Midrashic Antinomianism and the Promise of Bent Studies / Charles Bernstein / 207
Part 4: “Progression to an Infinite Degree Was Prophesied Therein”: Pataphysics’ Possible Futures
14. Concerning an Unfindable Architecture / Seth McDowell / 225
15. Metabolic Poetics: Writing the Anthropocene / Adam Dickinson / 240
16. Pataphysics and Computing / Andrew Hugill and James Hendler / 258
17. Pataphysics and the Academy / Orchid Tierney / 280
List of Contributors 291
Index 295

Perec, Georges. “ Thoughts on the Art and Technique of Crossing Word,” The Believer, GAMES issue, September 2006 (vol. 4, no. 7).

Schuh, Julien. Alfred Jarry - le colin-maillard cérébral. Étude des dispositifs de diffraction du sens [Alfred Jarry: A Cerebral Blind-Man's Buff. A Study in the Strategies of Semantic Diffraction]. Doctoral thesis, Littérature française. Université Paris-Sorbonne - Paris IV, 2008. Abstracts in French & English, full text in French.

Stillman, Linda Klieger. “Machinations of Celibacy and Desire,” L’Esprit Créateur , Winter 1984, Vol. 24, No. 4, Alfred Jarry (Winter 1984), pp. 20-35.

Weiss, Beno. Understanding Italo Calvino. Columbia: University of South Carolina Press, 1993.

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