Posts from March 2018

Mathematics and Literary Production: Oulipian Method as Critique seminar, March 21st

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Wednesday 21st March, 5.00 pm
Room 206, University of Westminster, 32-38 Wells Street, London W1T 3UW

Mathematics and Literary Production: Oulipian Method as Critique
Daniel Cartwright (University of Westminster)

The mid twentieth century saw the emergence in French mathematics of a particularly forbidding formalism, pursued under the name of Nicolas Bourbaki. Bourbaki aimed to derive all branches of mathematics from a single set of abstract axioms. A few years after their heyday, another group, the Oulipo, took this formalist mathematical approach and applied it to literature. The Oulipo’s defining method, the formal constraint, was thus conceived mathematically as an axiom of the text. This paper explores the significance of this introduction of mathematical form to writing and will argue that, in the internal failings of Bourbaki’s totalisation of mathematics, and the Oulipo’s parodic adoption of this scheme, there is an underlying critical reflection of the rationalistic conditions of modernity.

All welcome! Followed by usual drinks in the Green Man.