Friday, August 6, 2021

Ahab's Arithmetic: The Mathematics of Moby-Dick

Ahab's Arithmetic: The Mathematics of Moby-Dick: In this article we explore mathematical allusions in Herman Melville’s novel Moby-Dick. We argue that both the quantity and sophistication of these allusions are evidence for Melville’s high level of mathematical knowledge and ability. We discuss some of the most compelling mathematical imagery, as well as giving background on the several mathematicians and mathematics books mentioned in the novel. We also include some biographical details supporting the assertion that Melville had an unusually good mathematical education.
"Perhaps the most important use of mathematics in the narrative is as a symbol for rationality.... Rationality has limitations, but rejecting it completely, as Ahab does when he ceases his mathematical calculations, is, for Ishmael/Melville, a sure sign of madness."
Hart, S. B. "Ahab's Arithmetic: The Mathematics of Moby-Dick," Journal of Humanistic Mathematics, Volume 11 Issue 1 (January 2021), pages 4-32 at page 30. DOI: 10.5642/jhummath.202101.03 . Available at:

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