Organizers: Marjorie Senechal (Smith College), Chandler Davis (University of Toronto).
The need to create a poetic-dramatic-narrative literature around mathematics is widely acknowledged by mathematicians and non-mathematicians alike. Yet creative writing about the content of mathematics is extremely rare, and creative writing about the act of mathematical creation even rarer. Despite the lively current interest in mathematics on the part of the non-scientific public, much creative writing in and about mathematics today reinforces the insider/outsider divide. The entrenched presupposition that artistic creation is unrelated to mathematical thought still endures, though some writers are struggling against this bias in various ways. Any effort to address these daunting challenges is necessarily experimental. We are encouraged by the statement on the Banff Centre's website, promising "freedom to experiment, with the knowledge that we learn from our failures as well as our successes. It is hoped that everyone will feel comfortable taking risks and challenging assumptions, creating new and unlikely alliances...."
The BIRS's April 2004 workshop will bring together mathematicians and non-mathematicians actively engaged in creative writing related to mathematics. We will deliberately mix genres -- exposition, biography, poetry, theatre, journalism, fiction and nonfiction -- in the expectation that the mix will prove stimulating.
All workshop participants should be seriously engaged in a writing project consonant with our theme, willing to discuss some of their work-in-progress, and willing to subject their writing to others' reactions.* Everyone is expected to criticize and be criticized. We also urge participants to circulate some of their work (published or unpublished) well in advance of the meeting in Banff. In addition to stimulating discussion, this is an excellent way for participants to introduce themselves to one another.
We are working closely with Carol Holmes, Director of the Banff Program in Writing and Publishing, to adapt and incorporate some of their successful strategies. Part of each day will be spent on group activities (suggestions are welcome), part on presentations and discussion of work-in-progress, and part unscheduled, to allow time for writing. We will also explore the problem of finding outlets for the kind of creative writing we are trying to encourage: for example, ways of identifying and educating agents and publishers, and also what contributions The Mathematical Intelligencer might make.
*Please present only work in progress, not work in press or already published! While published work may show a wider breadth of possibilities, both presenters and critics learn much more if the criticism might have an effect. Just as importantly, criticizing published work is a different enterprise, more like a newspaper reviewer or drama critic.
Schedule (PDF file 62kb)