Symposium to connect literature, science in works by Borges

September 24, 2012  

An international and interdisciplinary symposium Oct. 3 will explore relationships of literary and scientific thought through discussion of noted Argentine writer Jorge Luis Borges. Included will be celebration of a book release by Purdue University Press.

The event is titled "Borges and the Sciences: A Symposium on the Intersection of Literature, Mathematics, and Physics." It is being organized by the Department of History with support of numerous other programs and departments. It is free and open to the public, running from 9:30 a.m. to noon and 1:30 to 4:30 p.m. in Stewart Center, Room 214.

Two of the featured speakers also will speak on campus Oct. 4. They are Daniel Balderston, director of the Borges Center at the University of Pittsburgh, and Guillermo Martínez, an internationally recognized fiction writer from Argentina who has a PhD in mathematics.

The Oct. 3 symposium also will feature Floyd Merrell, Purdue professor emeritus of Spanish and a pioneer in studying Borges' use of scientific concepts, and Alberto Rojo, associate professor of physics at Oakland University in Michigan and a noted musician and composer.

"The symposium seeks to illustrate how some of the most astonishing creativity of the past century took place in minds who were hospitable to both the sciences and the humanities," says Ariel de la Fuente, associate professor of history and a conference organizer. "Jorge Luis Borges said that '[Literary] imagination and mathematics are not contradictory; they complement one another like lock and key.' The symposium will be an opportunity to think about the necessity of an education that will prepare citizens for the multiple technical, social and cultural challenges of the future." 

The symposium is part of the calendars celebrating Latino Heritage Month at Purdue and the 10th anniversary of Purdue's Latino Cultural Center. The event also has endorsements by the Consulate of Argentina in Chicago and SACNAS, a leading Latino and Native American scientific society in the United States.

At the symposium, Purdue University Press will have available for purchase signed copies of Martinez's book "Borges and Mathematics," newly published in English by the press. The book contains essays about Borges' short stories and essay on the relationship between literature, artistic creation, and mathematics more generally. The essays are written for a wide audience of nonspecialized readers.

In addition, through sponsorship by the Latino Cultural Center, persons at Purdue can download a copy of the book free for a limited term leading up to Oct. 3. The electronic copy is downloadable only from campus using the link and instructions at the bottom of the page on the Purdue University Press website.

Here are the titles of the featured presentations at the symposium:

* Daniel Balderston, "Borges' Scientific Readings"
* Guillermo Martínez, "Borges and Mathematics"
* Floyd Merrell, "Math-Science Complementarity in Borges"
* Alberto Rojo, "Borges and Quantum Physics"

The additional lectures on Oct. 4, which also are free and open to the public, are:

* Daniel Balderston on "Hate Crimes and the Emergence of a Homosexual Subject in Latin American Literature: Pablo Palacio's 'Un hombre muerto a Punta Pies.' " 1:30 p.m. Stewart Center, Room 322.

* Guillermo Martínez will offer a reading of his short story "Vast Hell," published in The New Yorker. A question-and-answer session will follow. The event is sponsored and hosted by the Creative Writing program. 7:30 p.m. Krannert Buildling, Krannert Auditorium (Room 140).


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