Special 2014 MLA session: Literary-Mathematical Intersections: Case Studies in Interdisciplinary Methodology

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MLA - special session

We're looking for one panelist to round out our panel on literary scholarship that deals with history and methodology of mathematics. A panelist has dropped out of our MLA special session for Chicago 2014, and we're hoping to find a replacement as soon as possible.

Our proposal introduction follows. If you're interested, please let us know as soon as possible.

Is literature calculable? Does literature have its own procedures for counting and reckoning, and how might such notions characterize form? What, we ask, are the benefits and limits of applying mathematical concepts and models to texts? Where does literary history intersect with mathematical history, and what drives or fosters this intersection? How does literature address philosophical and existential questions raised by mathematical innovation? To what extent do shifts in mathematical ideas and attentions - concepts of infinity, probability, and proof, for example - inform and redirect literary form and content? As literary critics, how might we talk about intersections between mathematics and literature, and with what aims? Amidst increasing attention to digital humanities (themselves mathematical methodologies of sorts), what kinds of approaches render mathematical-literary intersections most productive?

Such questions are all too often asked and answered within a single context. In seeking to reflect upon methodologies, payoffs, and limitations of literary scholarship that attends to mathematical history, we will present and discuss papers from three different periods and contexts, each of which considers its own methodologies and assumptions as themselves worthy of reflection. In this way, we hope to begin a conversation that ranges broadly across crucial interdisciplinary questions, but that can refer productively to specific examples.