MATHEMATICAL FICTION:

a list compiled by Alex Kasman (College of Charleston)

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The Devil and the Lady (1930)
Alfred Tennyson
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Although first published in 1930, this humorous and beautifully worded play was written by the famous poet more than 100 years earlier when he was less than 14 years old.

One character is a mathematician whose every line is phrased in the language of mathematics and/or astronomy. Often, these are corrections to mathematical metaphors or even unintentional puns in statements made by the Devil. For instance, when they are arguing about why the Devil will not reveal his face, he asks for "no divisions" regarding "this point", to which the mathematician replies "A point hath neither parts nor magnitude, Thy face hath both and therefore is no point." (The Devil has a comeback: "From thine own wit I judge thy wit is pointless, For thou hast parts and therefore lackest point.") At other times, the mathematician's remarks are merely metaphors themselves, such as when he comments on someone's appearance by saying:

(quoted from The Devil and the Lady)

That is as plain as that two straight lines can't enclose a space,
The angles of his elbows and his knees
And all the other angles of his person
Are all obtuse. Good living hath worn down
Their natural acuteness. Both his haunches
Are as the segments of a circle.
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And each particular hair upon his scull
Makes up the shortest distance 'tween two points

(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 Devil and the Lady
According to my `secret formula', the following works of mathematical fiction are similar to this one:
  1. Back to Methuselah by George Bernard Shaw
  2. Gulliver's Travels by Jonathan Swift
  3. The Devil and Simon Flagg by Arthur Porges
  4. Mortal Immortal by Mary Wollstonecraft Shelley
  5. Topsy-turvy (Sans Dessus Dessous) by Jules Verne
  6. The Chair of Philanthromathematics by O. Henry (William Sydney Porter)
  7. Gravity's Rainbow by Thomas Pynchon
  8. The Birds by Aristophanes
  9. Been a long, long time by R.A. Lafferty
  10. I of Newton by Joe Haldeman
Ratings for The Devil and the Lady:
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.
Mathematical Content:
2/5 (1 votes)
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Literary Quality:
5/5 (1 votes)
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Categories:
GenreHumorous, Fantasy,
Motif
Topic
MediumPlays,

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(Maintained by Alex Kasman, College of Charleston)