Algebraic Art: Mathematical Formalism and Victorian Culture

ISBN : 9780198809982

Andrea K. Henderson
256 Pages
138 x 216 mm
Pub date
Mar 2018
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Algebraic Art explores the invention of a peculiarly Victorian account of aesthetic form, and it traces that account to a surprising source: mathematics. Victorian mathematicians reconceived mathematics as a formal rather than a referential practice--the value of a claim lay not in its capacity to describe the world but its internal coherence. This concern with formal structure produced a convergence between mathematics and aesthetics: mathematicians wrote fables describing non-Euclidean spaces, logicians reconceived symbolism, and physicists described reality itself as consisting of shapely and beautiful patterns. Artists, meanwhile, conceived their work as a 'science' of form, whether as lines in a painting, twinned characters in a novel, or wavelike stress patterns in a poem. Algebraic Art shows that artworks we tend to regard as outliers to mainstream Victorian culture were expressions of a mathematical formalism that was central to Victorian culture and continues to shape ou


Introduction; 1 Geometry: Math for Math's Sake: Non-Euclidean Geometry and Aestheticism; 2 Algebra: Symbolic Logic and the Logic of Symbolism; 3 Analysis: Magic Mirrors: Formalist Realism in Victorian Photology and Photography; 4 Analogy: The Physics and Poetics of Analogy; 5 Invariant Forms: '[T]he bonds of verse' Form as Discipline; Coda: '[T]o bury Euclid deep in the living flesh'

About the author: 

Andrea Henderson is Professor of English at the University of California, Irvine, where she has taught since 2002. She came to UCI after 11 years teaching at the University of Michigan. She received her B.A. from the University of Chicago in 1986, and her Ph.D. in English Literature from the University of Pennsylvania in 1991. Professor Henderson's research is centered on nineteenth-century British culture. She is the author of Romantic Identities: Varieties of Subjectivity, 1774-1830 (Cambridge University Press, 1996), Romanticism and the Painful Pleasures of Modern Life (Cambridge University Press, 2008), and articles on subjects ranging from eighteenth-century embryology to Victorian photography.

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