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The Horror of Numbers: Can Humans Learn to Count?

The Horror of Numbers: Can Humans Learn to Count?
University College Room 140
Time: Oct 1st, 4:30 pm End: Oct 1st, 4:30 pm
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Alexander Lecture for 2014 by Steven Connor, English, Cambridge

University College is pleased to present the Alexander Lecture for 2014

Steven Connor, English, University of Cambridge

The Horror of Numbers: Can Humans Learn to Count?

Human beings pride themselves on their mathematical prowess, but as Jeremy Grantham has grimly observed, while communication skills have been a matter of life and death for humans, mathematics so far has not (he invites us to imagine the murderous mayhem that would ensue if our undeniably admirable driving skills were on a par with our average mathematical capacities). The problem of mathematical incapacity is hugely increased by the institutionalised antagonism to mathematical and quantitative thinking in the humanities. Literary studies, my own home discipline, has contributed powerfully to the formation of the phobic, and potentially catastrophic, view that the vocation of the humanities is to defend or redeem us from quantity and calculation. Large quantities of time and money are consumed in sustaining this ideological rather than accidental innumeracy. By cheerful contrast, I hope, my lecture will explore the ways in which literature, and the humanities more generally, might in fact provide resources for the development, in place of the allergic recoil from an allegedly ‘inhuman’ world of number, of an imagination of multitude.

Steven Connor is Grace 2 Professor of English in the University of Cambridge and Fellow of Peterhouse, Cambridge. His most recent books are Paraphernalia: The Curious Lives of Magical Things (London: Profile, 2011), A Philosophy of Sport (London: Reaktion, 2011), Beyond Words: Sobs, Hums, Stutters and Other Vocalizations (London: Reaktion 2014) and Beckett, Modernism and the Material Imagination (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2014.

Event website: http://www.uc.utoronto.ca/Alexander20142

Steven Connor will also teach a masterclass for faculty members and graduate students titled The Noises of the Voice on Tuesday 30 September from 12-3 pm.  Space is limited, and registration is required.  Please click HERE to register.



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