Seminar Writing Questions

Mathematical Systems, Spring 2006

Week 10: Borges stories + Brian's article

  1. What will you take with you from this year?
  2. What do you know now that you didn't know before this program?
  3. How has this program changed you?

Week 9: Geometric Regional Novel

  1. What are some major themes in this novel?
  2. What effect does the mathematicalness of much of the description in this novel have?
  3. What is the importance of wood in this text? Water? Glistening? Those dang birds?

Week 8: Flatterland

  1. What's your favorite geometry presented in the book, and what's your favorite character?
  2. Did you like or dislike the way the concepts in the book were presented? How was it different from Sphereland & Flatland?
  3. Which do you think had more social commentary: this book, Flatland, or Sphereland?
  4. Would you prefer the VUE to IMAGERing?

Week 7: Sphereland

  1. What social issues of Flatland are resolved in Sphereland? Are any new issues introduced?
  2. What role, if any, does religion play in the lives of the Flatlanders?
  3. Is knowing that Flatland is curved in a 3rd direction sufficient to conclude that Spaceland is curved in a 4th?
  4. Is the Sphere treated unfairly by Dionys Burger?
  5. What do you like on your (Garden(TM)) Burger (or Boca Burger, or any burger substitute)?

Week 6: Flatland

  1. What role does sight recognition play? What does it represent?
  2. If Flatland were a sheet of paper (pretend it's finite) and were subjected to all the same forces we experience, describe what this sheet of paper would look like to us, given what we know about Flatland.
  3. How is it possible for A. Square to perceive plane figures during his 3-space venture when before that he could only perceive in 2-D?
  4. Why were the characters so vehement in denying the existence of extra dimensions? Why did Abbott make them thus?

Week 5: Proof

  1. What character do you identify with the most?
  2. How much responsibility should Claire have felt toward her father?
  3. Did she (Claire) feel enough?
  4. What did she (Catherine) prove?
  5. What happened next?

Week 4: Oulipo packet

  1. Would you respect/appreciate/enjoy the written work of a perfect literary machine? How would you read and analyze such a text? Why (or why not) does a human author matter to you?
  2. Computer puns: funny or just sad for the computer (and The Joe)?
  3. Do you find the written results of rules, constraints, and structures to have less value than free works? What about the process of using rules, constraints, and structures, or the rules, constraints, and structures themselves? (If you didn't like the literary machine's work, would you at least like the machine?)
  4. What level of interaction between author, machine, and reader are you comfortable with? (Remember, there are many relations to check here: author-reader, author-computer-computer reader, etc.)
  5. What was Brian trying to say with this packet? And is he a robot?

Week 3: Arcadia

  1. What role does mathematics play in the pursuit of knowledge?
  2. Which is a greater influence on the characters, the mind or the flesh?
  3. What is the symbolism of the hermitage?
  4. Who is your favorite character and why?

Week 2: The Parrot's Theorem

  1. Did you like the book? Why or why not?
  2. Do you think hiding the history of math in a novel made it more or less effective at teaching the subject?
  3. Would you recommend this book?
  4. Do you think that it's racist that the Sicilian turns out to be a mob boss?
  5. What's the significance of disability in this book? Why do you think Guedj included it here?

Week 1: Borges stories + part of Sin Boldly

  1. Where do you fall(ish) among the cynics, rationalists, and essentialists, and how does this affect your "analytical preferences"?
  2. Compare and contrast the two portrayals of infinity from Borges's stories.
  3. What do the characters' dispositions reflect about humans' reactions to infinity?

Brian L. Walter