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Circles DisturbedThe Interplay of Mathematics and Narrative$
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Apostolos Doxiadis and Barry Mazur

Print publication date: 2012

Print ISBN-13: 9780691149042

Published to Princeton Scholarship Online: October 2017

DOI: 10.23943/princeton/9780691149042.001.0001

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Tales of Contingency, Contingencies of Telling

Tales of Contingency, Contingencies of Telling

Toward an Algorithm of Narrative Subjectivity

(p.508) Chapter 15 Tales of Contingency, Contingencies of Telling
Circles Disturbed

Jan Christoph Meister

, Apostolos Doxiadis, Barry Mazur
Princeton University Press

This chapter examines whether mathematics can help us model aesthetic contingency, and hence create narrative subjectivity. It begins by considering narrative subjectivity as a hard-wired feature of narrative representation and how this feature reflects the post-Enlightenment view of human existence that replaced the old belief in Providence with a new explanatory model, that of existential contingency. The discussion proceeds by exploring the aesthetic and philosophical consequences of this explanatory model for narrative, first by looking at Leo Perutz's stories that illustrate the problem of contingency from various angles, and then by discussing the so-called story generator algorithm (SGA) that aims to fabricate contingency. The chapter also explains how perspective and focalization, two ways in which theorists have tried to understand narrative subjectivity, can be formalized in the context of the SGA. Finally, it offers suggestions for how mathematical tools may help in the computational modeling of narrative subjectivity.

Keywords:   mathematics, aesthetic contingency, narrative subjectivity, narrative representation, existential contingency, Leo Perutz, story generator algorithm, perspective, focalization, computational modeling

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