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Literary Logic


September 16, 2023


Dr. Patrick Jones, UNIGE

Dr. Sangam MacDuff UNIL



Prof.Andrea Henderson, University of California, Irvine

Prof. Helen Thaventhiran, University of Cambridge



What is the relationship between logic and literature? At first sight, the disciplines seem starkly opposed, but in recent years, scholars have discovered surprising affinities between them. Jeffrey Blevins and Daniel Williams (2020) identify similarities between formal logic and literary form in literature from Chaucer to Don DeLillo. Andrea Henderson (2014) draws convincing connections between symbolic logic and the logic of Symbolism in the Victorian era, especially in the work of Lewis Carroll, a professional mathematician whose works include The Game of Logic (1886) and Symbolic Logic (1896). Megan Quigley (2015) argues that Henry James, Virginia Woolf, James Joyce, and T. S. Eliot formulated a modernist aesthetics of vagueness in reaction to symbolic logic, while Rebecca Porte (2014) explores the "Poetry of Logical Modernism" in Gertrude Stein, Laura Riding Jackson and Wallace Stevens. Porte also notes intriguing intersections between early twentieth-century analytical philosophy and literary analysis, a topic Helen Thaventhiran explores more fully (2015, 2020). Wittgenstein is a central figure here, and in the wake of his philosophy, many critics have asked whether poetry has a peculiar logic of its own, and what happens when logic is expressed in literary form (e.g., Perloff 1996; Altieri 2015; LeMahieu and Zumhagen-Yekplé 2017). These two aspects of what might be termed "literary logic" are frequently in question in interdisciplinary studies of literature, science and mathematics, particularly when readers are invited to reflect on the role of logic in mediating knowledge between these disciplines (e.g., Hofstadter 1979; Hayles 2005; Beer 2016; Connor 2016).




Drawing on the expertise of our visiting speakers, this workshop will address a range of historical, epistemological and interdisciplinary questions about literature and logic, considering the kind(s) of logic at work in literary texts and the aesthetics of argument, particularly in literary criticism. There will be opportunities for doctoral students to present their work in progress and all participants will be invited to reflect upon the argumentative logic(s) they deploy in their own critical writing.







Deadline for registration 09.09.2023
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