History, History of mathematics, History of science, Literary studies, Mathematics, Philosophy, Science studies

Course date

20 July - 24 July, 2009
Application deadline
15 February, 2009
Course Director(s): 

Amir Alexander

Department of History, UCLA, Los Angeles, USA

Karl Hall

Department of History, Central European University, Budapest, Hungary
Course Faculty: 

Apostolos Doxiadis

Writer, Athens, Greece

Ted Porter

History department, University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA), USA

Arkady Plotnitsky

Department of English, Purdue University, USA

Joan L. Richards

Department of History, Brown University, Providence, USA
Guest Speaker(s): 

Markus Asper

Classics Department, New York University, USA

For several centuries now mathematics has been a primary tool of modern science and technology, twin pillars of the modern world. It is therefore startling to note the marginal place of higher mathematics within current mainstream thought and culture, and the widespread alienation from the field by both intellectuals and the broader public. Unlike humanistic fields that have narrative at their core, higher mathematics has become practically irrelevant to mainstream cultural discourse.

The summer school confronts this fundamental anomaly by noting that it is based on the apparent opposition between mathematics and narrative fields. Narrative, or more simply story-telling, interprets our experiences and the complex world we live in, whereas abstract mathematics deals with austere realms of pure and rigorous logic. But though they are often perceived as opposite ends of the intellectual spectrum, mathematics and narrative are, in fact, deeply intertwined. Stories, cultural narratives, and popular imagery often go hand in hand with major mathematical developments and help chart their course. By revealing the deep interconnections between mathematics and narrative disciplines such as literature, philosophy, and history, the course will aim to overcome this widespread suspicion of the field. In doing so, it will attempt to bring mathematical thought into closer contact with other fields, and back into the cultural mainstream.

No knowledge of advanced mathematics is required for this course. Students from all humanistic fields as well as from the mathematical sciences are welcome. An appreciation for mathematics and an interest in the cultural production of knowledge are desirable.