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Quantum writing: literature and the world of numbers

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Since the beginning of the 19th century, literature has placed itself firmly in opposition to the realm of number and quantifying operations of all kinds. But for the last century there are also unmistakeable signs that literature and number have been drawing ever more closely together. In this free public lecture, Professor Steven Connor will discuss the ways in which literary writers over the last century, including Lewis Carroll, James Joyce and Samuel Beckett, have approached and sometimes embraced mathematical operations in their work, often through reflections on probability. He will also consider the statistical and quantitative approaches to literary analysis increasingly made available by digital technology.

Before moving in 2012 to the Faculty of English in Cambridge, Steven Connor taught at Birkbeck College London, where he was Professor of Modern Literature and Theory from 1994. From 2003 to 2012, he was Academic Director of the London Consortium Graduate Programme in Humanities and Cultural Studies, a collaboration between academic and cultural institutions in the capital that fostered and supported students in projects of cross-disciplinary enquiry.

His research interests are focussed in the literature and culture of the 19th and 20th centuries, though many of his projects have a longer historical contour. He writes regularly on Dickens and Beckett, and his areas of interest include magical thinking; the history of medicine; the cultural life of objects and the material imagination; the relations between culture and science; the philosophy of animals; and the history of sound, voice and auditory media. He has also written extensively on contemporary art for Cabinet, Tate Etc, Modern Painters and others, and broadcast regularly for radio.

Booking is essential as places are limited – book online via the ICE website

This talk is part of the Madingley Lectures series.

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