William Stewart joined the Department of German in 2015 after working for a number of years in the studio of Danish-Icelandic artist Olafur Eliasson. His dissertation tracks the development of a productive synergy between mathematics and humanism in German-speaking contexts after the Second World War. Investigating a variety of forms that this synergy takes, it argues that the canonical critique of rationalism advanced by representatives of the Frankfurt School and encapsulated famously in Dialektik der Aufklärung was not the only position occupied by intellectuals on the anti-fascist Left. In many instances, a “mathematical consciousness”, much in the lineage of Leibniz’s characteristica universalis, informs this worldview by sharpening and complicating the very notions of rationality, irrationality, quantifiability, and the infinite. The result—revealed in chapters that analyze Max Bense, Oswald Wiener, the Hochschule für Gestaltung Ulm, and Hanne Darboven—is an often unexpected mathematical undergirding to projects devoted to questions of the human. Since 2018, William has also been a member of Princeton’s Interdisciplinary Doctoral Program in the Humanities (IHUM), and for the 2018–2019 academic year, he was a Fulbright scholar in Germany.
Mathematik ist immer Geist: The Persistence of Mathematical Humanism and Aesthetic Rationality in Postwar Germany