Today, we have forgotten that mathematics was once aligned with the arts, rather than with the sciences. Literary Infinities analyses the connection between the late 19th-century revolution in the mathematics of the infinite and the literature of 20th-century modernism, opening up a novel path of influence and inquiry in modernist literature. Baylee Brits considers the role of numbers and the concept of the infinite in key modernists, including James Joyce, Italo Svevo, Jorge Luis Borges, Samuel Beckett and J.M. Coetzee. She begins by recuperating the difficult and rebellious German mathematician, Georg Cantor, for the broader artistic, cultural and philosophical project of modernism. Cantor revolutionized the mathematics of the infinite, creating reverberations across the numerical sciences, philosophy, religion and literary modernism. This 'modernist' infinity is shown to undergird and shape key innovations in narrative form, creating a bridge between the mathematical and the literary, presentation and representation, formalism and the tactile imagination.
Baylee Brits legitimates a whole new subfield of modernism studies, the study of the links between science and literature. Her focus on modernist allegories of literature reflected in numbers, allied with her deep understanding of what the mathematization of textual infinity can yield, produces remarkably original readings, thus brilliantly launching a new hermeneutics of modernism. * Jean-Michel Rabate, Professor of English and Comparative Literature, University of Pennsylvania, USA, author of The Pathos of Distance (Bloomsbury, 2016) and Rust (Bloomsbury, 2018) * The ancient struggle between science and literature has always taken place in the gulf between finitude and the infinite. In this extraordinary book, Baylee Brits shows us how a range of great 20th-century writers took up the mathematical challenges issued by Georg Cantor, creating literary works by experimenting with numbers. Their 'transfinite allegories' incarnate new relations of literature and science. * Justin Clemens, Associate Professor of English and Theatre Studies, University of Melbourne, Australia * Baylee Brits's excellent book offers a deeply intelligent yet accessible account of the relationship between modernist literary form and Cantor's revolutionary mathematical modernism. Brimming with interdisciplinary energy and underpinned with careful scholarship, this book makes a vital contribution to our understanding of how and why literary modernists used formal numerical experimentation and the paradoxes of number in their reconfigurations of the relationship between words and meaning. * Laura Salisbury, Associate Professor in Medicine & English Literature, University of Exeter, UK *