The Quaker Oat Box – Infinite Regress

Marjorie Coverley Luesebrink


There are countless references in postmodern criticism to the Aldous-Huxley-related notion of the Infinite Regress as illustrated by the Quaker Oat Cereal Boxes of the past – which purportedly displayed the Old Quaker holding a cereal box that depicted The Old Quaker – who was, in turn, holding a cereal box depicting The Old Quaker and so on ad infinitum. So, without a second thought I entered Quaker Oat Box in my Google search dialog box, confident that this image would have been preserved by someone, somewhere.  But no.  As far as I can determine, it has persevered in lit-crit references but vanished as an historical image.

Nowhere could I find, among hundreds of Quaker Oat Box images, any one that had the oft-cited infinite regress phenomenon.  And that is as good a place to start as any.  Crestfallen, I made my own.

It appears that the term Infinite Regress may have had an early appearance in reference to heraldry, where the division of a coat of arms into increasingly diminutive sectors containing other coats of arms traces the evolution of a genealogy.  A notion not unrelated to what has happened in E-lit, I might suggest.

However, the long list of references returned by Google (not images, but sites where the concept was discussed) were overwhelmingly about the use of the infinite regress in critical literary references (a number of postmodern critical writings delve into the uses of infinite regress in recent literature.  These, of course, largely refer to a Conceptual Infinite Regress – the technique of constructing a story, for example, that holds a similar story, that . . . ..) 




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