Date of Degree

10-2014

Document Type

Dissertation

Degree Name

Ph.D.

Program

Comparative Literature

Advisor(s)

Giancarlo Lombardi

Subject Categories

English Language and Literature | Philosophy of Science | Physics

Keywords

Borges, Calvino, literary criticism, literature, mathematics, physics

Abstract

This work of comparative literary criticism focuses on the presence of mathematical and scientific concepts and imagery in the works of Italo Calvino and Jorge Luis Borges, beginning with an historical overview of scientific philosophy and an introduction to the most significant scientific concepts of the last several centuries, before shifting to deep, scientifically-driven analyses of numerous individual fictions, and finally concluding with a meditation on the unexpectedly fictive aspects of science and mathematics. The close readings of these authors' fictions are contextualized with thorough explanations of the potential literary implications of theories from physics, mathematics, neuroscience and chaos theory. While the mathematical studies highlight concepts such as "Zeno's Paradox," Cantorian set theory, and representations of numerical infinity, the discussions of physics isolate theoretical structures such as black holes, parallel universes and quantum-entangled particles for use in discussing the fictions of both authors.

Underlying the main goals of this work is an equal focus on the existence of an "ideal intellectual" or, more broadly, an ideal liberal arts education that draws together concepts from diverse and seemingly-unrelated fields of knowledge with the intention of generating unexpected and novel ideas and connections. By demonstrating the numerous appearances of scientific and mathematical imagery in the works of Calvino and Borges, this work emphasizes the shared fictive basis of all human knowledge and strives to set science and fiction alongside each other as equals in the hope of preserving the richness and diversity of intellectual enterprises.

 
 

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