Contact Address:
Prof. Dr. Klaus Mecke
Institut für Theoretische Physik
Universität Erlangen-Nürnberg
Staudtstraße 7
91058 Erlangen
Phone: +49-9131-85 28441
Fax: +49-9131-85 28444

Contact Address:
Dr. Aura Heydenreich
Germanistik und Komparatistik
Universität Erlangen-Nürnberg
Bismarckstraße 1b
91054 Erlangen
Phone: +49-9131-85 22978

Focus IV

Physics in Writing – Physical Models and Theories in Aesthetic, Literary, and Medial Discourses

This working group aims to analyse the aesthetic and medial transformations of physical knowledge and focuses especially on the epistemic functions of narration in the representation of knowledge. Its goal is to fathom the interrelations between the epistemology of physics and literary poetology, using the example of quantum theory and relativity theory. We will inquire into the genre specific medialisation of physical knowledge in the novel, in drama, radio plays, and comics, and investigate how texts functionalise physical knowledge in order to mark conceptual problems of their own.

In collaboration with working group I, group IV will employ methodologies of discourse and interdiscourse-analysis, as well as approaches of systems theory, and of cognitive and cultural narratology (A. Nünning, D. Herman) in its interdisciplinary and intermedial orientation (W. Wolf, M. Ryan).

Literature integrates the specialised discourses of physics into broader cultural contexts and fathoms the relevance of the interpretative latitude between certain and uncertain knowledge for the human world. We will ask how literature fathoms problems such as: the measurement process, the collapse of the wave function, non-locality, entanglement, and decoherence, and in turn uses them for the development of new aesthetic structures, and places them into the context of new cultural contexts.

Quantum theory serves as a foil for the reflection of unsolvable problems in other discourses: to name but a few, the connection of quantum theory and gender problems for the cultural construction of hybrid gender identities in U. Draesner's “Mitgift”, or the negotiation of historiographical problems in the history of science using the example of quantum theory in M. Frayn's “Copenhagen”, which in turn lead to genre-poetological self-reflections in the historiographical meta-drama.

Not only the special theory of relativity with its principle of the constant velocity of light and the relativity of simultaneity is transformed narratively. A similar transformation can be found with regard to the solutions of Einstein's equation in the general theory of relativity. They postulate cosmological models, which are mathematically valid, but physically not yet possible. The aim is to show how these models function as cognitive instruments of meaning making in both physics and literature, and as modes of world-construction in the case of uncertain knowledge. K.

Gödel's Closed Timelike Curves-theory structures R. Powers' novel “The Time of Our Singing”; in addition, this model is also functionalised for the legitimisation of a hybrid society's narrative identity construction, which has historically not yet been accepted. – The unification of quantum and gravity theory is an unsolved problem in physics, and various models from string theory to loop quantum gravity are in competition. The contradictory conceptions of time of both theories is an important problem. These aporias determine T. Lehr's novel “42”, which can be interpreted as a narrative experiment on the dynamics of theoretical physical thought at the interface between the general theory of relativity and quantum mechanics.