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Literature in the age of mathematics: Gender and the multiplicity of modernity

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Title: Literature in the age of mathematics: Gender and the multiplicity of modernity
Author(s): Brubaker, Anne M.
Director of Research: Rothberg, Michael; Hawhee, Debra
Doctoral Committee Chair(s): Markley, Robert
Doctoral Committee Member(s): Rothberg, Michael; Hawhee, Debra
Department / Program: English
Discipline: English
Degree Granting Institution: University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign
Degree: Ph.D.
Genre: Dissertation
Subject(s): mathematics modernism early 20th-century American women writers gender subjectivity
Abstract: This dissertation investigates mathematics as a multivalent metaphor in twentieth-century fiction and theory and as a powerful cultural force integral to the development of competing modernist paradigms. Though it appears that writers such as Ezra Pound, T.S. Eliot, and Wyndham Lewis deploy mathematical metaphors to reinforce the qualities of abstraction, objectivity, and detachment typically associated with modernist writing, I argue instead that mathematics offers early-twentieth-century writers a new lexicon for describing and explaining subjective experience. Particularly for a diverse range of modern women writers, including, for example, Edna Ferber, Charlotte Perkins Gilman, H.D., Mina Loy, and Gertrude Stein, mathematics enables an alternative mode of self-expression through which to communicate their political, professional, and sexual desires. I trace the emergence of mathematics as a means to construct new models of gender and racial identity as well as to channel emotional expression into a more culturally authoritative form. Thus, rather than a context-free, gender-neutral domain, mathematics plays an integral role in cultural formations of identity and difference within an emerging technoscientific society. As a whole, my project approaches scientific developments not as mere context to the rise of literary modernism; instead, I show how modernist modes of writing arise in conjunction with and in some cases in dialogue with developments in applied and theoretical mathematics. Bringing together these seemingly distinct fields of knowledge sheds new light on the interrelationship of science and subjectivity as it unfolds within literary modernism.
Issue Date: 2012-08-02
Rights Information: Copyright 2011 Anne Brubaker
Date Available in IDEALS: 2012-08-02
Date Deposited: 2011-05

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