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Modernism, Fiction and Mathematics$
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Nina Engelhardt

Print publication date: 2018

Print ISBN-13: 9781474416238

Published to Edinburgh Scholarship Online: January 2019

DOI: 10.3366/edinburgh/9781474416238.001.0001

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Mathematics, Language, Structure: Hermann Broch, the Sleepwalkers

Mathematics, Language, Structure: Hermann Broch, the Sleepwalkers

(p.59) 2 Mathematics, Language, Structure: Hermann Broch, the Sleepwalkers
Modernism, Fiction and Mathematics

Nina Engelhardt

Edinburgh University Press

Chapter 2, focusing on Broch’s The Sleepwalkers, analyses relations between mathematics and turn-of-the-century scepticism of language and investigation of form. The novel trilogy engages with research on the relations of mathematics and language, particularly by Gottlob Frege, and with the new approaches that emerge with it: the formalised language of analytic philosophy and literary formalism’s concentration on language as the basic building block of texts. The chapter also investigates how a competition of methodologies in modern mathematics informs the innovative form of the trilogy: it argues that the stylistically experimental third novel is informed by the central debate in the foundational crisis of mathematics, and traces the trilogy’s visions of total disintegration and valuelessness and, on the other hand, renewal through a counter-movement towards a non-rational element of common intuition to formalist and intuitionist approaches in mathematics. With its main focus on ways in which mathematics features as a structural model in The Sleepwalkers, this chapter shows how the trilogy presents mathematics as deeply implicated in the cultural development and explores the role of its modernist transformation for the form of the trilogy and Broch’s conception of modernist literature.

Keywords:   The Sleepwalkers, Mathematics and language, Scepticism of language, Analytic philosophy, Gottlob Frege, Intuitionism, Formalism, Mathematics and literary form

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