Friday, May 5, 2023

French Mathematicians Birthed a Strange Form of Literature

 From Big Think:

On November 24, 1960, at a café in Paris, two Frenchmen, Raymond Queneau and François Le Lionnais, met with a group of fellow mathematically-minded writers and literature-minded mathematicians and formed the Ouvroir de littérature potentielle, or Oulipo (from the first letters of the words). This translates roughly as “workshop of potential literature.” The aim of the group was to explore new possibilities for structures that could be used in literature, whether that be poetry, novels, or plays. 

Since mathematics is the lodestone of structure, the group was particularly interested in how mathematical ideas could be starting points for new literary forms and structural constraints. Queneau and Le Lionnais are not well known outside literary circles, but you have probably encountered Oulipians like Italo Calvino and Marcel Duchamp. (Read more.)


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