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Contradictory Woolf$
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Derek Ryan and Stella Bolaki

Print publication date: 2012

Print ISBN-13: 9780983533955

Published to Liverpool Scholarship Online: January 2016

DOI: 10.5949/liverpool/9780983533955.001.0001

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Virginia Woolf on Mathematics

Virginia Woolf on Mathematics

Signifying Opposition

(p.202) Virginia Woolf on Mathematics
Contradictory Woolf

Jocelyn Rodal

Liverpool University Press

This chapter explores the “formal similarities” in Virginia Woolf's writing and the mathematics of David Hilbert who shares an almost identical surname with the character Katherine Hilbery in Night and Day. Woolf's novels reflect on mathematics as though drawn to that which is most different from themselves, and her negative depictions of mathematics illuminate the prominent contradictions and ambiguities of her own ouvre. In the process, Woolf develops a play of opposites which represents rivalries that are inherent in communication generally, fundamental to the division between written symbols and the world they describe. The chapter then suggests that Woolf's representations of order and number parallel and refigure Hilbert's philosophy of mathematics.

Keywords:   mathematics, David Hilbert, Night and Day, contradiction, written symbols, order, number, philosophy of mathematics

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