Logic and Literary Form


organized by Charles Altieri, Jeffrey Blevins, and Daniel Williams

University of California, Berkeley
April 14-15, 2017
Literary formalism, formal logic: were ever two areas of study so alike and yet so different? Both advocate structural over practical or historical methods in the analysis of language. Both appeal to such methods to study how permutations of words and symbols affect the meaning of sentences and longer strings of language. Both assess linguistic structures and their effects in light of shared concepts like “form,” “symbol,” “predication,” “abstraction,” and “reference.” Yet despite many and various connections, a disciplinary chasm has long separated literary formalism and formal logic.
Our conference on Logic and Literary Form promises to bridge this chasm by convening scholars working at the interdisciplinary juncture of literary studies, philosophy, and the history of science in order to investigate the historical, conceptual, and analogical connections between literary and logical form. The conference will include a range of subfields from literary history to philosophical aesthetics, and will transect several periods from medieval developments in logic, rhetoric, and grammar through the articulation and rigorization of symbolic logic in the 19th and 20th centuries. The conference will feature keynotes by a literary scholar and philosopher, and a poetry reading.


Andrea Henderson (UC Irvine)
Bernard Linsky (Alberta)
Poetry Reading
Kevin Holden (Harvard SoF, Yale) — in conversation with Lyn Hejinian (UC Berkeley)


David Bates (Berkeley)
Kristin Boyce (Mississippi State)
Heather Brink-Roby (Stanford)
Taylor Cowdery (UNC)
Aden Evens (Dartmouth)
John Gibson (Louisville)
Matthew L. Jones (Columbia)
Anna Kornbluh (Illinois)
Michael LeMahieu (Clemson)
Megan Quigley (Villanova)
Anna Christina Ribeiro (Texas Tech)
Jessica Rosenfeld (WashU)
D. Vance Smith (Princeton)
Johanna Winant (West Virginia)
Daniel Wright (Toronto)


Maura Nolan (Berkeley)
Marjorie Perloff (Stanford & USC)
Daniel Williams (Harvard SoF)
Nasser Zakariya (Berkeley)
Dora Zhang (Berkeley)