Waiting for Godel, Spring 2021

This program combines intermediate study in the literary arts and humanities with exploratory work in liberal arts mathematics. Through Hofstadter’s  Godel, 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.