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MSA 18: Likeliness and Probability

The philosopher Ian Hacking described probability as "the success story of the first half of the twentieth century."€ The poet Elizabeth Bishop, in "€œIn the Waiting Room,"€ draws on the language of probability when her young speaker thinks, "€œHow --€“ I didn'€™t know any/word for it --€“ how '€˜unlikely.'" And in James Joyce'€™s Ulysses, Bloom identifies "€œthat flying around" as a "€œbat probably,"€ which "very likely"€ lives in the belfry.

Modernism has been described as shocking, and shock is the result of an encounter with newness that claims to overturn previously held truths or even epistemological methodologies. But what happens when the new is unexpected but not shocking, when it does not undermine or overthrow truths but can be incorporated and assimilated into them? How does probability, a prominent modern epistemological methodology, take shape in modernist literature? And how does probability, with its foundations in mathematical logic, agree with and diverge from the more approximate likely, with its roots in likeness, the engine of metaphor?

This panel will discuss modernism'€™s accounts of the likely and the unlikely, and how modernist texts theorize making sense of an unpredictable world through weighing and evaluating probability. Likeliness substitutes in for lack -- when one doesn'€™t "know any/word for it"€ or when one is unsure what exactly is flying overhead --€“ but it can never be a perfect fit, never actually certain, always, at best, only probable.

Please send abstracts of 250 words and a brief biography by April 8th to Johanna Winant (jwinant@emory.edu).


Conference Location: Pasadena, USA
Conference Starts: November 17, 2016
Conference Ends: November 20, 2016

CFP Submission Deadline: April 08, 2016

For more information, contact: Johanna Winant

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