Studies in Literature and Culture
Catastrophe in Philosophy (Aristotle), Mathematics (René Thom) and Drama (Tom Stoppard and Samuel Beckett)
← 324 | 325 →Jadwiga Uchman
The aim of the paper is to analyse two plays – Tom Stoppard’s Professional Foul and Samuel Beckett’s Catastrophe – in reference to two theories concerning catastrophe: the one propagated in ancient times by Aristotle1 and that publicized by the French mathematician, René Thom and his follower Christopher Zeeman. The choice of the two plays is by no means accidental for a number of reasons. Firstly, both playwrights are associated with the Theatre of the Absurd. This classification is undoubtedly valid for the entire output of Beckett as all of his works are grounded in the existentialist vision and employ the grotesque which is understood as an inseparable combination of tragic and comic elements. It is certainly less so in the case of Stoppard who, early in his career, departed from the assumptions of this philosophical trend, yet goes on using the grotesque by mixing the tragic with the comic. One of his aims, as he himself stated in reference to the coin tossing game in Rosencrantz and Guildenstern Are Dead, is to represent the “two sides of [his] own personality, which can be described as seriousness compromised by [his] frivolity, or […] frivolity redeemed by [his] seriousness” (Gussow 1995, 14). He also conceded: “What I try to do, is to end up by contriving the perfect marriage between the play of ideas and farce or perhaps even high comedy” (Hudson 1974, 8).
Secondly, on numerous occasions, both artists demonstrated their engagement in the opposition to all kinds of restrictions of...
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