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Title: Encyclopedic architectures : mathematical structures in the works of Don DeLillo, Thomas Pynchon, & David Foster Wallace
Author: Taylor, Stuart J.
ISNI:       0000 0004 7963 0709
Awarding Body: University of Glasgow
Current Institution: University of Glasgow
Date of Award: 2019
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This study examines intersections of mathematics and literature within encyclopedic narratives by Don DeLillo, Thomas Pynchon, and David Foster Wallace. My interdisciplinary approach draws upon the case of Nicolas Bourbaki, whose 'encyclopedic' treatise, Éléments de mathématique, provides an important cultural touchstone for contemporary visions of mathematics as a totalised system. The pseudonym for a group of world-leading French mathematicians working in the middle of the twentieth century, Bourbaki attempted to create a definitive mathematical textbook from three foundational structures. Bourbaki's article 'The Architecture of Mathematics', often considered a manifesto for the group, details three 'great' or 'mother-structures' - topological, algebraic, and ordered structures - which together encompass the entirety of mathematical activity and theory. While playing an important part in Bourbaki's project to unify, encircle, and totalise mathematics, these structures also reveal how encyclopedic narratives utilise the figurative efficacy of mathematics to challenge such epistemological exhaustion. Though Don DeLillo's Ratner's Star has long been recognised as structured upon the history of mathematics, considering how this encyclopedic novel alludes to its intertexts through the figure of the Möbius strip reveals its fundamentally topological structure. The difficult equations in Gravity's Rainbow can be seen, through the concept of algebraic structures, to model Pynchon's metaphorical processes. Finally, Wallace's use of enumerated endnotes in Infinite Jest complements his interest in Georg Cantor's mathematical set theory, explicated in Everything & More: understood through ordered structures, Wallace's hierarchical manipulation of narrative containers are revealed to be mathematically informed representations of consciousness. By regarding the topological, algebraic, and ordered structures of mathematics as modelling DeLillo, Pynchon, and Wallace's figurative strategies - respectively, of allusion, metaphor, and representations of consciousness - the interplay between mathematics and encyclopedic narrative can be better appreciated.
Supervisor: Not available Sponsor: Not available
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral
Keywords: PR English literature ; PS American literature ; QA Mathematics