BUFFALO, N.Y. – Carla Mazzio, associate professor and
director of graduate studies in the University at Buffalo
Department of English, has been awarded a John Simon Guggenheim
Memorial Fellowship for 2014-15 for her book-in-progress,
“The Trouble With Numbers: The Drama of Mathematics in the
Age of Shakespeare.”
She is one of 178 scholars, artists and scientists awarded
fellowships by the Guggenheim Foundation this year, selected out of
an application pool of almost 3,000. The fellows are selected, said
the foundation, “on the basis of their prior achievement and
Mazzio’s new book, under advance contract with the
University of Chicago Press, examines the affective, tensional and
often conspicuously irrational environments in which mathematics
circulated in the late 16th and early 17th centuries.
The fellowship will help fund Mazzio’s 2014-15 research at
three institutions: the Huntington Library in San Marino, Calif.;
the Houghton Library at Harvard University; and the Venerable
English College in Rome.
Mazzio is the 17th member of the UB English department to earn a
Guggenheim Fellowship since 1964, a list of illustrious scholars
and creative artists that includes Robert Creeley, Bruce Jackson,
Bob Daly, Neil Schmitz, Leslie Fiedler, Carl Dennis, Dennis
Tedlock, Susan Howe and, last year, Jerold Frakes.
“I am honored,” says Mazzio, “to be in such
extraordinary company. It is a real gift to be a member of such an
intellectually exciting department.”
“Her research on mathematics and Renaissance drama is
simply superb,” says department Chair Graham Hammill.
“In bringing together two seemingly opposed ways of thinking,
she shows just how much mathematical reasoning was intertwined with
the dramatic arts."
Mazzio’s scholarship, moreover, has long been instrumental
to the developing interest within literary studies to engage more
directly with science and technology.
“Not only does she take on these issues in her research,
but has taught classes on Shakespeare and science,” Hammill
says, “and with Jim Bono from the departments of History and
Medicine, co-founded and co-directs the Science Studies, Humanities
and the Arts Research Workshop, sponsored by UB’s Humanities
Institute, which gives faculty and students the opportunity to
explore the cultural dimensions of science, technology and
As a Francis Bacon Foundation fellow in 2010, Mazzio’s
work examined how irrational dimensions of mathematical theory and
practice informed literary and aesthetic innovation in the
Renaissance. She argued that while math often is associated with
order, reason or the rise of rationalism, it was, in its early
days, also a source of disorder and frustration as people struggled
with the unfamiliar discipline.
She noted at the time that the stories, dialogues and narratives
that accompanied equations in early Renaissance math books
sometimes highlighted the tragic or comic consequences of an
individual’s inability to do math well. Conversely,
Renaissance dramas often drew upon tensions integral to the
emergent culture of mathematics in ways that scholars have not yet
Mazzio specializes in early modern literature in relationship to
the history of science, the history of the body, and the history of
language and the material book. She teaches a number of
undergraduate and graduate courses related to Shakespearean topics,
as well as courses on revenge literature, Renaissance tragedy and
She the author of “The Inarticulate Renaissance: Language
Trouble in an Age of Eloquence” (University of Pennsylvania
Press), which was awarded the 2010 Roland H. Bainton Book Prize. In
it, she examines attitudes toward ineffectual speech in fields
ranging from religion, humanism and law to historiography and
vernacular development, and argues for the inarticulate as central
subject of both cultural history and dramatic innovation.
She co-authored “Book Use, Book Theory: 1500-1700”
(2005), which argues for the importance of the category of book
“use” for those who aim to understand the material
history of the book in ways that resist material fetishism, on the
one hand, and over-rapid theoretical abstraction, on the other.
She also is editor of “Shakespeare & Science”
(2009) and co-editor of three books, including “Historicism,
Psychoanalysis and Early Modern Culture” (with Douglas
Trevor) and “The Body in Parts: Fantasies of Corporeality in
Early Modern Europe” (with David Hillman), which was awarded
the English Association Beatrice White Book Prize in 1999, at the
onset of her career.