2011-12 Catalog

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Offering Description

Mathematical Fiction


Spring 2012 quarter

Brian Walter mathematics, computer science, improvisational theater
Fields of Study
literature and mathematics
Preparatory for studies or careers in
mathematics and literature.

Mathematical principles can provide the basis for creative writing, from plot structures to themes, content, and even style. Jorge Luis Borges’s stories provide numerous examples. In “The Aleph,” the narrator attempts to describe a location from which all places can be seen simultaneously: "Mystics, faced with the same problem, fall back on symbols: to signify the godhead, one Persian speaks of a bird that somehow is all birds; Alanus De Insulis, of a sphere whose center is everywhere and circumference is nowhere; Ezekiel, of a four-faced angel, who at one and the same time moves east and west, north and south." Works like “The Aleph” not only reflect mathematical concepts but also give them flesh, rendering those abstractions poetic and tangible.

The overarching question of this course, which we'll stay focused on as we read the assigned texts, is: What are the ways in which mathematical ideas can guide or influence works of fiction? We’ll see that there are a number of very different ways in which this can happen. By paying attention to this issue we’ll learn more about both literature and the nature of mathematics.

This course is also the seminar portion of the Mathematical Systems program. Students who do not have some solid background in mathematics, or at least a healthy, inquisitive attitude toward mathematics, are not encouraged to take this course. Come prepared to read closely and carefully, and to think actively about mathematics and literature as part of one unified intellectual endeavor.

Online Learning
Enhanced Online Learning
Greener Store
Schedule Details
3-5p Tues (Sem2 C2105)
Offered During

Program Revisions

Date Revision
March 20th, 2012 New opportunity added.