Decoding visual and acoustic signals: Epistemological uncertainty in Tom Stoppard’s 'After Magritte' and 'Artist Descending a Staircase'
The paper discusses two plays of Tom Stoppard, After Magritte and Artist Descending a Staircase, from the perspective of the uncertainty pertaining to the possibility of perceiving and adequately describing the reality. The plays employ intertextual references to two modern painters whose names are included in the titles of the dramas and who are known to have experimented in their artistic ventures. In two series of pictures, The Key of Dreams and The Use of Words, Ma-gritte dealt with the difficulties connected with representing reality in pictorial and linguistic terms, while Beauchamp tried to present not only three dimensionality but also movement on the two dimensional canvas. Apart from referring to art, Stoppard’s pieces are also a kind of who-done-it, with each of them trying to solve a mystery. After Magritte discloses the solution of the identity of the strange figure the characters saw in the street and also logically explains the strange opening and closing stage images. Being a radio play, Artist Descend-ing a Staircase, teaches the audience to decode aural signals and demonstrates that, similar to objects of visual perception, they may be decoded in different ways. The two dramas discussed thus deal with the relative quality of reality, whose perception and description depends on individual sensitivity of a concrete person.
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