Calculating the Limits of Poetic License:
Fictional Narrative and the History of Mathematics

Leo Corry - Tel Aviv University

The present article elaborates on a talk presented at the first "Mathematics and Narrative" conference (Mykonos, July 12-15, 2005). I am indebted to the organizers for their kind invitation, to the staff for their diligent assistance, and to the participants for illuminating talks and discussions that helped preparing this web-based version.

For the text-only version in Configurations, click here.  (Configurations 15 (3) (2007), 195-226.)

For the German version , click here.   ("Berechnungen zur Grenze der poetischen Freiheit. Fiktionales Erzählen und die Geschichte der Mathematik", in Andrea Albrecht et al (eds.) Zahlen, Zeichen und Figuren Mathematische Inspirationen in Kunst und Literatur, Berlin: De Gruyter (2011), pp. 564-599.)

For a full, web-based version of the article, follow the links below.



1. Introduction
2. Mathematics, History and Narrative - Three Kinds of Texts
  Unguru on History and Mathematics
  The Royal Road to Me
  Mathematics, History, Fiction
3. Suspension of Disbelief
  Coleridge on Suspension of Disbelief
  Borges on Fact and Fiction
4. Some Specific Examples
  Uncle Petros
5. Dramatizing the History of Mathematics
  Singh on Fermat
  History of Science as Epic Theater

6. Concluding Remarks - Can Mathematics in Fiction Interfere with Mathematical Reality?


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