Hamlet and Euclid, Those Amazing Twins

Document Type


Date of Original Version



From Williams' original description of the event:

"This talk will consider the role of directed imagination in an unlikely couple of cultural giants: Euclid and Hamlet. My claim is that in reading Shakespeare's Hamlet or Euclid's Elements, the reader's imagination is ostensibly encouraged to envision certain structures, spaces, or events in aid of acquiring new knowledge. In fact, as my analyses will show, the result of this cognitive work is to show that the audience must already have knowledge of the thing it seeks to learn. I then consider what the consequences of this inverted cause and effect--what the ancient rhetoricians called hysteron proteron, and what we might call putting the cart before the horse--are for our current understanding of what it means to read literature, attend the theatre, or do mathematics, and how these disparate activities are thereby linked. This talk will incorporate elements of close reading, theatre history, book history, and the history of mathematics. There should be strong crossover appeal for audiences in the humanities, arts, and the sciences, from students to faculty."

This document is currently not available here.