Lucy Harlow

My primary research interest is literature and cognition, especially in the poetry of the early modern period, but including a broad chronological scope from Old English literature to modern speculative and hypertext fiction. I am interested in the history of mathematics, especially calculus and decision theory; circulating credit as a theological metaphor in the seventeenth century; islands, cities, and distorted topographies; riddles, paradoxes, and the mapping of one kind of ignorance onto another; fiction and technology; and methods of modelling the inconceivable. All these topics relate to the idea that knowledge acquisition is often a non-cumulative, nonlinear, alogical process, in which the mind must endorse certain imprecisions in order to conceive of otherwise inaccessible truth. I am interested in the role of literature in both demonstrating and generating this process.

My MA dissertation, That Immense Disproportion, which received the Philip Brockbank Award for best MA dissertation at the University of York, considers the problem of conceiving of infinity, and the gulf between imagination and intellection, in the works of Nicholas of Cusa, Thomas Harriot, Henry More, Thomas Traherne and Walter Charleton. It also explores the use of geometry, from Nicholas to Descartes to Hobbes to Merleau-Ponty, in demonstrating the limits of human intuition and cognition. My PhD dissertation, The Discomposed Mind, considers the strange and ruined topographies of riddle and riddle-like texts, with chapters on the Exeter riddles, the Hypnerotomachia Poliphili, Andrew Marvell, Margaret Cavendish, and Lucy Hutchinson. It focuses on historical moments populated by ruins, and examines the riddling literature which responds to them.

In addition to my academic work, I write poetry and speculative fiction; my work has appeared in Strange Horizons, Aliterate, Bracken, and others.