Les mathématiques

Et cette série m’ennuie; il me semble que je l’ai déjà écrit, dans ce même codex. My intellectual formation, comment elle s’est donnée, on le sait. And: did one need my life to become me? My friend Nicky has a formation very like mine but did not come to it by the same paths at all. What is the question to which this series responds? Is it one I have not yet answered? Je me le demande.

Nonetheless we will persist a bit, having already covered the first perceptions, about language and the research orientation. Now we have foreignness, most specifically shifting cultural and cognitive systems: my favorite book has always been Eva Meets Noriko-San. In the first grade we studied SNCC and the incipient war in Viet Nam, and I was interested in contemporary history; I spent the third grade on study abroad in Madrid and liked the large city, the high, dry air, the museums, the streets. In the sixth grade we studied Latin America; I learned to do research and started writing my famous papers.

In third grade I had also started studying mathematics. Nobody I knew understood it but me, and I soon learned how to go to office hours for consultation on difficult problems. I became good at math; it is also because of math that I became an independent learner, since nobody understood it at home. I am still one of the few people in humanities I know who appreciates engineering and likes mathematics; this difference may be fundamental.



6 thoughts on “Les mathématiques

  1. French, surrealism, Quevedo, prosody, Sarmiento, Carpentier, theory … and Brazil, race.

    These are the things I have to keep a focus on as I stay in professordom … they are the things I would have done had I not had to be in SLA and service world and had that not led me to de-repress my other career ideas (Near East, UN, UNESCO, prison industrial complex).

  2. For a time I was a math major, and I wanted to be an engineer. Instead I married one, and I understand his friends. In terms of research I am better off doing what I do, but I would have been a better mathematics teacher than English teacher.

    1. Me, too.

      This series is supposed to be about formation as an intellectual, not career choice, and I am trying not to morph it into career choice. This is why the math is very important!

      DEH check this out: my mother is dying and I went to the Bay Area for Easter and am going again for Mother’s Day. I had not been there in April for decades, had utterly forgotten how paradisiacal it is then. I will be touching down SFO May 10 and driving over the Golden Gate at sunset, and will say hello to it for you. 🙂

      1. Studying mathematics makes one more logical and analytical—not a popular thing to say in rooms full of humanities profs, but I think it is true—and this is absolutely an important part of intellectual formation. One reason that it takes me a long time to write articles (let alone a book), is that I am very conscious of the logic of an argument and when it is overly suggestive, or threatens to turn circular. I can’t write papers that are simply “suggestive” or purely “interpretive.” I like facts and rigor.

      2. Me, too ! ! !

        One of my friends in literature keeps claiming that the smart people are in sciences and also that many humanists are in fact anti-humanities (refuse to do anything rigorous in it). It is is an interesting pair of propositions to consider.

      3. And-but I have been told this is inappropriate, and that I should be more feminine and emotive because I am in literature … this on an annual review one time, even. I disagree.

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