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

Working Group III:

Discourses of knowledge around 1900: Quantum Theory / Epistemology / Poetics


  • Heydenreich (German Philology)
  • Illi (German Philology)
  • Kley (American Literary Studies)
  • Mecke (Physics)
  • Meusburger (Physics/Mathematics)

Research goals

The development of quantum theory at the beginning of the 20th century (1905-1927), raises epistemological problems that are frequently reflected in literature to this very day. The central thesis is that due to unsolved ontological and epistemological problems, the questions relating to the interpretation of quantum theory have an effect on poetic structures when they are addressed in literature. In a first step the working group intends to reconstruct the discursive formation of quantum theory (Heisenberg/Bohr; Schrödinger). It will then examine the procedures by which the fictional meta-discourse of literature exploits its interdiscursive potential and uses quantum theory in order to problematise the relation between knowledge and nescience. On the basis of a comprehensive text corpus we intend to identify which interpretations of quantum theory are functionalised in literary texts. In addition, the question will be pursued, if and in what way literary transformations of these interpretations lead to innovative fictional forms of mediation. Finally we will investigate in which constellations additional discourses are configured aesthetically and in what way they contribute to literary reflections on perspectives of physical research. We will also pursue the observation that the affirmation of uncertainty in quantum theory on the one hand, and in literary theory on the other, advances as a coevolutionary process: In 1927, Heisenberg lays the foundation of quantum theory with his mathematical formalism of the uncertainty relation. In 1931 Roman Ingarden, who had studied mathematics in Göttingen, publishes his best known work, The Literary Work of Art, in which he lays the foundations for phenomenological literary criticism on the basis of the concept of places of uncertainty in literary texts. By focussing on this correlation, the working group is concerned not only with the interrelations between physics and literature but also with the points of intersection between the constitution of theory in science and literature theory.