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Edwin Abbott Abbott
Written in 1884 by English schoolteacher Edwin Abbott Abbott, “Flatland” (full name “Flatland: A Romance of Many Dimensions”) is a literary hybrid, a math- and science-based novella that creates a fictional land while at the same time satirizing Victorian culture and introducing theories of space’s multi-dimensional nature. Flatland is a world that exists on the two-dimensional plane, where its inhabitants—literal geometrical shapes—live in a highly-structured society organized into classes based on the number of sides of a figure. The narrator and protagonist of “Flatland”, mathematician A. Square (a pseudonym originally given as the author of the book), writes from prison, intricately detailing the social organization of his country and recounting the revelations he has received from the sacred “Sphere.”In Flatland women are straight lines and are considered the lowest of shapes. Men are polygons and the number of sides they have is dependent on their ranking in the social hierarchy. Odd and unexpected incidents bring A. Square together with numerous other geometric shapes. Some of the places he ventures into are Spaceland, which has three dimensions, Lineland, which is one-dimensional, and Pointland, which does not have any dimensions. A. Square also imagines a land with four dimensions, which is considered a subversive concept. While other Victorian literature may be turned to more frequently as “classic” examples of time and genre, “Flatland” remains intellectually challenging given that it prompts an examination of the elements of society without needing to adhere to a firm delineation between fact and fiction.
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