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Research Interests

  • Environmental Humanities
  • Animals and Plant Studies
  • American Renaissance
  • Philosophy of Science/Mathematics
  • Historiographic Metafiction 

PhD thesis

I wrote my dissertation on US-American author Thomas Pynchon's poetics of mathematics. Few authors besides Pynchon grapple so extensively with mathematics throughout their entire career, and because I studied both English and Mathematics, this interdisciplinary project arose quite naturally for me. Upon arranging his works chronologically, I argue that a specific historiography of the US emerges, in which the crucial role of mathematics in the stages of colonization (18th century), industrialization (19th century), World Wars and counter-cultural revolution (20th century), and digitalization (21st century) is highlighted. Pynchon thus partakes in what German philosopher Max Bense calls a "cultural history of mathematics," a history that is less concerned with understanding how mathematics itself progressed as a science, but rather with tracing its impact on the makeup and organization of cultures, societies, and governments. Through Pynchon's novels, we see the relevance of flat-space geometry for cartographical and colonial purposes (in Mason & Dixon), the employment of vector geometry and complex algebra for the electrification of America and the subjugation of the working class (in Against the Day), the usefulness of higher-dimensional geometry, calculus and chaos theory for V2 rocket ballistics (in Gravity's Rainbow), the parallelism between mathematical group theory and political group formation in counter-cultural revolutions (in Vineland), and the role of algebraic cryptography, probability theory, and statistics in online communication and 9/11 conspiracies (in Bleeding Edge). Pynchon's literary historiography is thus mathematically indexed, as the evolution of America and the evolution of mathematics do broadly correspond: from simple and deterministic configurations to complex and probabilistic configurations. With this dissertation, I aim to show that Pynchon's literary-cultural history of mathematics may both enrich our understanding of historical events, crises, and transformations and help us calibrate the perks and dangers of mathematical practices in the future.