Published April 17, 2014
Carla Mazzio, associate professor and director of graduate studies in the 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 exceptional promise.”
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 medicine.”
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 fully realized.
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 media aesthetics.
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.