Waiting for Godel: Mathematics in the Work of Samuel Beckett


Spring 2021
Sophomore - Senior
Class Size: 50
12 Credits per quarter
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This program combines intermediate study in the literary arts and humanities with exploratory work in liberal arts mathematics. Through Hofstadter’s  Gödel, Escher, Bach: an Eternal Golden Braid  and the work of Samuel Beckett, students will explore the connections between literature and mathematical thinking, gaining a deeper understanding of both.

Samuel Beckett is one of the most influential and acclaimed writers of the 20th century. Our work with his novels, plays, and stories will blend careful textual study with literary criticism and philosophy. Because Beckett’s writing is informed by his own deep investment in mathematics, logic, and structural thinking, our study of mathematics — centered on Hofstadter’s landmark text  Gödel, Escher, Bach: an Eternal Golden Braid  — will offer us unique insight into Beckett’s philosophy and aesthetic while also providing access to rich mathematical concepts otherwise inaccessible to the non-mathematician.

Lectures and seminars will guide our engagement with Beckett’s texts and provide an opportunity to integrate mathematical and philosophical concepts with our reading of his fiction. In creative and critical writing workshops, students will develop their own responses to Beckett and to program themes, integrating mathematical and literary thinking. Workshops in mathematics will explore mathematical concepts that provide exciting frameworks for thinking about literary concepts and problems and will help students develop problem solving and thinking skills that will also feed their writing and reading skills.

This program is suitable for students with prior experience in literary arts who want to delve into difficult readings and who are interested in an introduction to rich ideas in mathematics. 

No prior experience with college-level math is required.

This program will be fully remote. Our work will be conducted remotely, using Canvas, Zoom, and Slack. Students will be expected to attend live, interactive sessions with program faculty and peers. Online small group work will also be a regular part of the work of the program. To successfully participate, students are required to have a reliable internet connection and regular access to a computer. Students should expect to spend up to 12 hours per week in synchronous meetings using Zoom. Our approach will emphasize participation in synchronous (live) sessions; however, if students find themselves unable to participate due to technology issues, caregiving obligations, economic disruption, health risk, or illness, they can work with faculty to pursue alternate options to earn related credit. 



Strong reading and writing skills; previous college-level study of literature.

Spring 2021 Registration

Academic details

Fields of Study
Preparatory For

mathematics, literature, performance, and writing.

Maximum Enrollment
Class Standing


Time Offered
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see Schedule Evergreen for detailed schedule

First Meeting



Date Revision
2021-03-12 This program is now open to Sophomore - Senior class levels (was Junior-Senior only)
2020-12-18 This program is now 12 credits (was 16)