Invitation: free Gresham lectures: John Mullan, Powers of the Novel; Mathematical Journeys and Structure in Fiction, Sarah Hart

We were sent this information recently, and I thought some of you might be interested. It's free and available to anyone - not just UK-based:

I was hoping to invite you and your members to our free online Gresham lectures on literature; Professor John Mullan is giving an amazing series on the Powers of the Novel,(next one is Crime in Fiction on 24 Feb); and Professor Sarah Hart, who is a Maths Professor, is talking about Maths in fiction (next one: Mathematical Journeys into Fictional Worlds on 9 Feb). 
 
All our lectures are free and easy to register for using an email address. You will get an email reminder 10 minutes before the lecture starts. 
 
If you don't know Gresham College, we have been running free public lectures since 1597 and could be considered the first institute of higher education in London. Read more here:  https://www.gresham.ac.uk/about/
 
The Powers of the Novel:
How did the novel - that upstart literary form - come to dominate the literary marketplace? How do novels seize and absorb the attention of their readers? In this lecture series Gresham's Visiting Professor of English Literature John Mullan will combine his scholarly expertise in the history of the English novel in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries with his interest in contemporary fiction. The three lectures will look at the formal tricks and devices of modern literary fiction, but also see how these reach back to the innovations of the great eighteenth- and nineteenth-century novelists.
 
Convincing Fiction 
John Mullan, Visiting Professor of English Literature at Gresham College  
Watch now (online): https://www.gresham.ac.uk/lectures-and-events/convincing-fiction
How does fiction make itself seem like fact? Our lecturer John Mullan begins where novels begin: with Defoe’s Robinson Crusoe, which showed every novel that followed how to make a ‘strange surprising’ story seem entirely ‘probable’ (the word that eighteenth-century pioneers of fiction liked to use). He will explore the tradition of factuality in the English novel, ending with the novels of Kazuo Ishiguro and examples of recent auto-fiction. 

Crime in Fiction 

John Mullan, Visiting Professor of English Literature at Gresham College  
Wednesday 24th February 2021, 6pm-7pm, online (or watch later)
https://www.gresham.ac.uk/lectures-and-events/crime-fiction
Why did stories of criminals become irresistible for novelists? Starting with works like Moll Flanders in the eighteenth century, this lecture will go on to examine the role of criminals in Dickens, keen to let his readers and characters experience what Pip in Great Expectations calls ‘the taint of crime’. To what ends? How does the recent genre fiction of novelists like Patricia Highsmith and Ruth Rendell return us to the transgressive pleasures of Defoe’s criminal autobiographies?
Fiction and the Supernatural 
John Mullan, Visiting Professor of English Literature at Gresham College  
Wednesday 14th April 2021, 6pm-7pm, online (or watch later)
https://www.gresham.ac.uk/lectures-and-events/supernatural-fiction
From Horace Walpole to Ann Radcliffe, renegade novelists of the eighteenth century wanted to claim back the supernatural for fiction and so invented the Gothic Novel. This lecture will pursue the gift of Gothic to later novelists, seeing how great Victorian novelists like Emily Brontë, Charlotte Brontë, and Charles Dickens were entranced by the supernatural. Finally, it will look at how the possibility of supernatural explanation contemporary energises novelists like Hilary Mantel and Sarah Waters.
 
Sarah Hart, Gresham Professor of Geometry
Tues 9 Feb 2021, 1pm-2pm online (or watch later)
Literary satire has long used mathematical concepts to reinforce its points. Gulliver’s Travels (1724) played with ideas of dimension, size, and shape, and a century later, Edwin Abbot’s novel Flatland (1884) explored the mathematics of higher dimensions, through the experiences of its two-dimensional protagonist, “A Square”. Both novels have spawned a host of sequels, commentaries, and films. This lecture explores how mathematical ideas have been interpreted in fiction, and discusses the unlikelihood, mathematically, of realms such as Brobdingnag and Lilliput, or the room-sized spiders of Hogwarts.
 
Sarah Hart, Gresham Professor of Geometry
Tues 9 Mar 2021, 1pm-2pm online (or watch later)
Mathematical concepts have often been used to create new structural forms in fiction, as in the works of Raymond Queneau and Jorge Luis Borges. The members of Queneau’s Oulipo group (including Georges Perec and Italo Calvino) sought to create works using various constraints as an impetus to innovation.
Eleanor Catton’s The Luminaries (2013) continues in this tradition. And mathematical concepts have even been used as plot devices, such as series of dastardly murders made possible by the mathematical idea of “non-transitivity”.