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The Mathematical ImaginationOn the Origins and Promise of Critical Theory$
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Matthew Handelman

Print publication date: 2019

Print ISBN-13: 9780823283835

Published to Fordham Scholarship Online: January 2020

DOI: 10.5422/fordham/9780823283835.001.0001

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Who’s Afraid of Mathematics? Critical Theory in the Digital Age

Who’s Afraid of Mathematics? Critical Theory in the Digital Age

(p.187) Conclusion Who’s Afraid of Mathematics? Critical Theory in the Digital Age
The Mathematical Imagination

Matthew Handelman

Fordham University Press

This book’s conclusion explores the persistence of intellectual anxieties related to mathematics in current debates over computational and quantitative approaches to humanistic inquiry known as the digital humanities. The digital humanities offer broader access to cultural and aesthetic products and new insights into their composition, circulation, and interrelations. And yet those skeptical of the digital humanities—akin to Horkheimer and Adorno’s criticism of the Logical Positivists—accuse digital humanists of uncritically yielding to business and science, objecting that reorienting the humanities around technology and code forfeits politics and language, history and critique. Negative mathematics offers a third way for the humanities to move between naïve positivism and critical rejectionism. Drawing on Scholem, Rosenzweig, and Kracauer, this third way finds in mathematical-computational approaches to negativity new ways to retain the silences of marginalized ideas and erasures of minoritarian experiences in historical and aesthetic thought.

Keywords:   humanities crisis, critical theory, distant reading, digital archives, digital humanities, mathematics

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