Anna Suwalska-Kołecka

Panel 2D: From Page to Stage, and in Between
Session 2 – July 1, 15:30 – 17:00

 This Is Not Magritte. On Intermedial References in T. Stoppard’s After Magritte and C. Churchill’s This is a Chair

The main purpose of this article is to study what Irina Rajevsky (2002) defined as the intermedial references in the plays of two contemporary British dramatists: Tom Stoppard and Caryl Churchill to the paintings of René Magritte.

René Magritte’s paintings of haunting poetic beauty have wielded enormous influence on the development of contemporary art and have been a source of continuing fascination to a wide audience. The painter employed the Surrealist aesthetic of the marvellous to induce epistemological and ontological uncertainty in the mind of the observer whose customary expectations are challenged by incoherence, negation, and the undecidability of the image.

The analysis will focus on Stoppard’s After Magritte, whose opening tableau is modelled on Magritte’s L’assassin Menace and Churchill’s This is a Chair, which puns on the painter’s most celebrated image of a pipe with a text “Ceci n’est pas une pipe”. Both plays follow Magritte’s semiotic explorations of the complex relations among objects, iconic signs, and linguistic signs. In this way, the intermedial references defamiliarize the everyday and inject a degree of epistemological instability in the recipient. Above all, however, they are effective meaning-constitutional strategies that encourage reflection on the art of theatre.


Anna Suwalska-Kołecka (PhD) is Assistant Professor at the Mazovian State University in Płock, Poland. She has published in the areas of modern British and American drama, with a particular emphasis on S. Beckett, T. Stoppard, and C. Churchill. Her research interests include the construction and representation of space, the surreal flights from realism on contemporary stages, adaptation, and intertextual practices. Co-organizer of an annual conference that accompanies the Themersons’ Festival in Płock.