Mathoetic Mode

Diana Pooley's review in the November Newsletter of `Uneasy relations' by Michael Barthelomew-Biggs discusses relations between mathematics, poetry theatre, and imagination. Naming and renaming is a subtle and inveterate habit of our conceptual art and science, in its building of structures for description, deduction, verification and calculation, and its finding, through abstraction, of powerful analogies. Perhaps we should coin the term `mathoetic mode ' for the striving which we all need to do through `the difficulty of bringing new concepts out of the dark', in the words of Alexander Grothendieck.

So I would like to point out a speech in `A Midsummer Night's Dream', Act V, Scene 1, in which it seems Shakepeare speaks through his character Theseus, but which also suggests, in its last three lines, the role of the`mathoet':

`The poet's eye, in a fine frenzy rolling,

Doth glance from heaven to earth, and earth to heaven,

And as imagination bodies forth the forms of things unknown

The poet's pen turns them to shapes, and gives to airy nothing

A local habitation and a name.'

LMS Newsletter, Jan 2008, p.26

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