Non-normative Euclideans: Victorian literature and the untaught geometer

Jenkins, A. (2021) Non-normative Euclideans: Victorian literature and the untaught geometer. In: Tubbs, R., Jenkins, A. and Engelhardt, N. (eds.) The Palgrave Handbook of Literature and Mathematics. Palgrave Macmillan: Basingstoke, pp. 81-96. ISBN 9783030554774 (doi:10.1007/978-3-030-55478-1_5)

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Publisher's URL: https://www.palgrave.com/gp/book/9783030554774

Abstract

Victorian writers told and retold stories of individuals who appeared to know geometry innately, instinctively, or intuitively, without having studied Euclid. This repeated figuration of the untaught geometer highlights the extraordinary place of Euclid, and his Elements of Geometry, in nineteenth-century British culture. No other branch of mathematics was so wholly identified with one author, one book, as geometry; and no other branch was imbued with such broad and deep cultural and moral importance. Narratives of the non-normative Euclidean are used in Victorian literature to investigate relationships between rational and empirical knowledge, as well as between genius and discipline, and ultimately, in many cases, to enforce cultural submission to the imaginary ideal of Euclidean geometry as a perfect, complete, and unarguable system of truth, and to the models of moral and social stability which it underpinned.

Item Type:Book Sections
Status:Published
Glasgow Author(s) Enlighten ID:Jenkins, Professor Alice
Authors: Jenkins, A.
Subjects:P Language and Literature > PR English literature
College/School:College of Arts > School of Critical Studies > English Literature
Publisher:Palgrave Macmillan
ISBN:9783030554774
Published Online:31 December 2020

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