Structures and Strictures: Fiction, Mathematics and Philosophy
Fall 2014 and Winter 2015 quarters
In this program, we will explore how tools for thinking--like philosophical terms, fictional narratives and mathematical systems--are involved in building up and also challenging structures of knowledge. We will ask: Are these defenses against the unknown or our only ways of accessing it? Through critical and creative writing projects, we will see how practices in all three disciplines also work to disrupt conventional thinking and we will pursue experiments in the use of constraints to free us from our own aesthetic traditions and generic modes of thought.
We’ll regard academic disciplines as ongoing conversations that can both expand and limit what we can know and what we can imagine. We will work to understand how mathematics is an imaginative, humanist endeavor, a study of patterns that yields new languages and opens up possibilities in the world. Philosophy will help us both think about the conditions for the possibility of world-making and examine fictional worlds as aesthetic objects. In our study of literature, we’ll attend closely to structures in language and narrative that make meaning happen.
We’ll read work from the avant-garde tradition, by contemporary literary experimentalists, and by storytellers for whom time, space and being are of more interest than plot. Philosophical texts will likely include works by Kant, Benjamin, Adorno and Lacan. We'll also read texts that describe the scope, content and aesthetic of modern mathematical work, such as The Mathematical Experience by Philip J. Davis and Reuben Hersh. Many of these texts are challenging, but we will work together to develop the skills needed to approach them in reading, writing and conversation.
In fall, students will be introduced to disciplinary approaches to formulating and responding to complex questions. Regular work of the program will include seminars, short papers and workshops in literature, philosophy, writing and mathematics.
In winter, in addition to seminar and workshops, students will pursue a creative and critical writing project connecting all three disciplines, with opportunities to develop a chosen emphasis.
Fields of Study
Preparatory for studies or careers in
Location and Schedule
Offered during: Day