The Dialogue of Art and Science in Tom Stoppard's Arcadia
In a country house in Derbyshire in 1809, thirteen-year-old Thomasina Coverly decides to invent a new Geometry of Irregular Forms. Her mathematical discoveries are in advance of her time, but they match the transformations of Sidley Park, in which the Arcadian landscape of the 18th century is giving way to Romantic disorder. They also echo the irregular, unpredictable nature of sexual attraction which she observes around her, and the resulting sentimental imbroglio that Hannah Jarvis and Bernard Nightingale will attempt to unravel 180 years later. In the comical entanglements that ensue, art and science engage in a witty dramatic dialogue, and sex is always part of the equation.
Tom Stoppard’s Arcadia plays with the traditional divisions between Classicism and Romanticism, art and science, order and disorder. This book focuses on close readings of the text, and will provide students with the necessary historical, critical and theoretical background to discuss these tensions and their relation to the key themes of time, desire and loss.
Introduction: text and contexts
Stoppard’s theatre: the comedy of ideas
A theatre of ideas
The seduction of science in stoppard’s drama
Arcadia: a comedy of wit and (mis)interpretation
Romantic revolutions in art and science
A shared revolution in art and science: from order to chaos
Representing time: newtonian time, irreversible time, pastoral time
The intertextual stage
Quoting and rewriting
Translation and textuality
Spatial, textual and temporal palimpsests
Science as Metaphor
The effects of scientific discourse on stage
“the action of bodies in heat:” scientific metaphors for dramatic action
“plotting” and “iterating:” scientific metaphors for dramatic form
The dynamics of Desire
Body and mind: libido sentiendi, libido sciendi
Et in arcadia ego: a tragic ending?
The hermeneutic game
Engaging the audience: a “whowroteit”
Providing the answers: spectator involvement or authorial control?
Physical interferences: the tortoise and the apple
Autour de l'auteur
Liliane Campos is a Lecturer in English and Theatre Studies at the University of Sorbonne nouvelle - Paris 3. She has written a doctoral dissertation on the role of scientific discourse in contemporary British drama (2009), and edited a special issue of Alternatives théâtrales about science and contemporary European theatre (2009).
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