Article ID: CBB150662150

The Hard Math of Beauty: Gerard Manley Hopkins and "Spectral Numbers" (2021)


This article examines number-space synesthesia (NSS), a phenomenon first identified by Francis Galton in 1880. Experienced by a small percentage of the population, NSS involves the capacity to visualize numerals in highly personalized spatial formations. The article argues that the Victorian interest in NSS is tied to the larger nineteenth-century interest in non-Euclidean geometry. Analyzing the contributions of the priest and poet Gerard Manley Hopkins to his father's book The Cardinal Numbers (1887), in which the younger Hopkins describes his own experience of NSS, the article demonstrates that NSS operates in a similar way to non-Euclidean geometry by removing numbers from the realm of practical use and rendering them aesthetic objects. In the hands of Hopkins, numbers become the raw material for artistic creation.

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Authors & Contributors
Zadrozny, Sara
Wilhelm, Lindsay Puawehiwa
Barford, Megan
Amery, Fiona
White, Rebekah C.
Goldstein, Amanda Jo
Journal of the History of the Neurosciences
British Journal for the History of Science
Studies in History and Philosophy of Science Part C: Studies in History and Philosophy of Biological and Biomedical Sciences
Journal of the History of the Behavioral Sciences
History of Science
German History
Oxford University Press
Editions L'Harmattan
University of Saskatchewan (Canada)
University of Chicago Press
University of California, Los Angeles
Visual perception
Senses and sensation; perception
Darwin, Erasmus
Darwin, Charles Robert
Wordsworth, William
Wollaston, William Hyde
Shelley, Percy Bysshe
Ruskin, John
Time Periods
19th century
20th century, early
18th century
Early modern
Great Britain
British Admiralty

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