MATHEMATICAL FICTION:

a list compiled by Alex Kasman (College of Charleston)

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The Limit (2019)
Freya Smith / Jack Williams
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This pop-rock musical about the life of mathematician Sophie Germain was performed in March 2019 at the VAULT festival in London.

The playwrights were supposedly looking for a historical female character about whom they could write a Hamilton-like musical, and Germain certainly is a good choice. Many aspects of her biography lend themselves to a dramatic portrayal: the conflicts with her parents over whether she ("a girl") should be allowed to study math, the violence and danger of the French Revolution, and her struggle to be accepted in a male-dominated field...and, of course, there's also some math (though that does not always lead to box office success).

It fictionalizes some of the historical aspects for the sake of drama. For example, in the play Germain does not simply use the name of a male student ("Le Blanc") as a pseudonym when submitting her mathematical work, but actually impersonates him to attend class. However, the mathematical aspects -- focusing as expected on Fermat's Last Theorem and on the patterns formed on the surface of vibrating metal plates -- are said to be accurately presented.

The show was sold out for four of five performances and won both the "Origins Award for Outstanding New Work" and the "People's Choice Award". But, one professional review complained that the characters were too "one-dimensional" and that the delivery was too "slapstick". That review also seems disappointed that the music is more Ashman-Mencken-ish than Lin-Manuel-Miranda-like, but that of course is just a matter of taste.

I have not seen this play performed or read the script, though I do hope to be able to do so someday. All I know about it can be found in reviews that you can read elsewhere online. Visitors to this site may especially be interested in the review that appeared in the AMS Notices. If you have seen The Limit, please use the links below to vote on its mathematical content and literary quality and to tell us a bit more about it.

More information about this work can be found at www.ams.org.
(Note: This is just one work of mathematical fiction from the list. To see the entire list or to see more works of mathematical fiction, return to the Homepage.)

Works Similar to The Limit
According to my `secret formula', the following works of mathematical fiction are similar to this one:
  1. Emilie: La Marquise Du Châtelet Defends Her Life Tonight by Lauren Gunderson
  2. Fermat's Last Tango by Joanne Sydney Lessner / Joshua Rosenblum
  3. Archimedes, a planetarium opera by James Dashow
  4. Legacy of Light by Karen Zacarías
  5. Miss Havilland by Gay Daly
  6. The Mathematician's Shiva by Stuart Rojstaczer
  7. The Ishango Bone by Paul Hastings Wilson
  8. Pythagoras's Darkest Hour by Colin Adams
  9. Enchantress of Numbers: A Novel of Ada Lovelace by Jennifer Chiaverini
  10. Uniform Convergence: A One-Woman Play by Corrine Yap
Ratings for The Limit:
RatingsHave you seen/read this work of mathematical fiction? Then click here to enter your own votes on its mathematical content and literary quality or send me comments to post on this Webpage.
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Categories:
GenreHistorical Fiction, Humorous,
MotifAcademia, Proving Theorems, Real Mathematicians, Female Mathematicians, Music,
Topic
MediumPlays,

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(Maintained by Alex Kasman, College of Charleston)