Cosmic Arithmetic

has 2 versions
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X Bibliographic Information

Cosmic Arithmetic

by Baroness Elsa von Freytag-Loringhoven

Original Source

Encoded documents and images are derived from manuscripts in the Papers of Elsa von Freytag-Loringhoven in Special Collections at the University of Maryland, College Park, Libraries. In addition, individual pages or leaves of manuscripts are identified by the corresponding reel and frame numbers of the microfilm edition of the Freytag-Lorinhoven Papers.

Witness List

  • First: Reel 3, Frame 714
  • Second: Reel 3, Frame 715

Textual Notes

Drafts of this poem occupy series3, box 1, folder 49. The poem was written between 1923-1927. To the editor's knowledge, it has not been reprinted or published. This poem shares scientific and mathematical themes with "Matter Level Perspective", "Orgasmic Toast", and "Purgatory Lilt/Statements by Circumstanced Me"

Electronic Edition Information:

Responsibility Statement:
  • Text Encoding by Tanya Clement
  • Proofing and Additional Encoding by Tanya Clement
  • TIFF images scanned at 600 dpi from manuscript pages and JPEGS derived byTanya Clement
Publication Details:

Published by Tanya Clement.

Office of Digital Collections and Research (DCR), University of Maryland, College Park, MD 20742

Baroness Elsa von Freytag-Loringhoven's poetry is printed here with the support of the University of Maryland Libraries. Permission to reproduce images of Freytag-Loringhoven's manuscripts has also been generously granted by the libraries.

This poem and manuscript drafts are available from this site for demonstration purposes only. Though the intellectual property of Elsa von Freytag-Loringhoven is in the public domain, all annotations and editorial commentary are copyrighted. They may not be reproduced without explicit permission from the copyright holder. For copyright information, please contact Tanya Clement.

Encoding Principles

DTD constructed from TEI P5 poetry base with tagsets for parallel segmentation, linking, figures, analysis, transcr, textcrit.

Line breaks have not been preserved in prose sections in order to facilitate parallel segmentation procedures.

X Critical Introduction

Critical Introduction

In writing math equations for her poem "Hell’s Wisdom" or "Purgatory Lilt/Statements by Circumstanced Me" the Baroness writes to Barnes that the poem is "cristall [sic]" in the "conciseness" of its "arithmetic." Likewise, the Baroness was interested in precision that science and technology afforded. "Cosmic Arithmetic," in its mathematic articulation of culturally significant words such as "sex," "potency," and "Holy Ghost" is appealing to the modernist and dadaist need for expressing abstract truths with concision. In "An Introduction to Dada" Tristan Tzara writes that "Dada was born of a moral need, an implacable will to achieve a moral absolute, of a profound sentiment that man, at the center of all creations of the spirit, must affirm his primacy over notions emptied of all human substance, over dead objects and ill-gotten gains" [in The Dada Painters and Poets: An Anthology, edited by Robert Motherwell (New York: Geroge Wittenborn, Inc., 1951): 394]. Likewise, this poem seeks to understand the moral absolute of the trinity of the Holy Ghost by representing that trinity in the conciseness that numbers can convey. At the same time, numbers are abstract, and by equating the same numerical combinations (2 + 1 = 3) with terms such as "sex" and "potency" or power, the Baroness is interrogating the "absolute" morality that the holy trinity (the Father, the Son, and the Holy Ghost) represent. In other words, traditionally, "father" and "son" is a relationship marked by cultural negotiations between power and sex. Where does this relationship exist within the holy trinity?

Like "Matter Level Perspective" and "Orchard Farming" and in which the Baroness uses lines in addition to words to represent meaning, "Cosmic Arithmetic" seems influenced both by other experiments in abstraction like the typographical experiments of Tzara and Raul Hausmann and also Francis Picabia’s and Marcel Duchamp’s machine drawings.

XWitness
COSMIC ARITHMETIC
1 = 2 = SEX1 = 2 : SEX
2 = 1 = POTENCY2 = 1 : POTENCY
1 = 3 = HOLY GHOST1 = 3 HOLY GHOST
E.V.F.L
XWitness
COSMIC ARITHMETIC
1 = 2 = SEX1 = 2 : SEX
2 = 1 = POTENCY2 = 1 : POTENCY
1 = 3 = HOLY GHOST1 = 3 HOLY GHOST
E.V.F.L

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