Literature and logic: The sentence after Boole
James, Kenneth R.
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Literature and Logic: The Sentence After Boole investigates the influence of the development of mathematical logic, and the analytic tradition that evolved alongside it, on the writing of Lewis Carroll, Gertrude Stein, Jacques Roubaud and the Oulipo group, and Samuel R. Delany. While critics have noted relations of appropriation among certain of these writers, the group as a whole has not been examined as a cohesive canon. I argue that when formal logic and the analytic tradition are taken as a unifying historical backdrop, common concerns and lines of development among these writers are foregrounded. I also show how the critical responses to these writers have been influenced by this tradition, and suggest that our recognition of this influence alters our sense of what's at stake in the criticism, and thus in the original works. Unlike studies which use logical-analytic concepts to supplement arguments with other aims, my study is distinguished by its focus on the formal systems of Boole, Frege, Russell, and others. Since these systems provide the foundations for computer science and software design, my study enriches the critical lexicon of discussions in new media and software studies. Through readings of key works, criticism, and archival material, I describe an international, multi-generational, and still ongoing literary response to mathematical logic - a response whose central concern, I argue, is the political status of the sentence as a linguistic, rhetorical, and literary unit.
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