Torn Palimpsest and Recycled Time: Copenhagen and Conclusion

  • Jenni G. Halpin
Chapter
Part of the Palgrave Studies in Literature, Science and Medicine book series (PLSM)

Abstract

In Michael Frayn’s 1998 play, Copenhagen, complementarity works not only as an extended metaphor but also as a topic of discussion for the characters. These fictional versions of Niels and Margrethe Bohr and Werner Heisenberg work through unsatisfactory explanations for their motivations, increasing uncertainty about the reason for and content of their meeting during the Second World War. Rather than fulfilling the hope shared by these characters, the play shows that their effort—the building up of an incomplete picture from multiple frames of reference—and the preservation of uncertainty are what allow the play to end with a more complicated definition of justice than that with which it began and with the suggestion that this more-complicated justice has been obtained.

Keywords

Complementarity Uncertainty Niels Bohr Werner Heisenberg 

Bibliography

  1. Barad, Karen. Meeting the Universe Halfway: Quantum Physics and the Entanglement of Matter and Meaning. Durham and London: Duke UP, 2007.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  2. Barnett, David. “Reading and Performing Uncertainty: Michael Frayn’s Copenhagen and the Postdramatic Theatre.” Theatre Research International. 30.2 (2005): 139–149.Google Scholar
  3. Bilson, Fred. “Michael Frayn’s Copenhagen.” British Writers Classics. vol. 2. Ed. Jay Parini. New York: Scribners, 2004. 19–34.Google Scholar
  4. Bohr, Niels. Preface to the 1961 Reissue. Atomic Theory and the Description of Nature. The Philosophical Writings of Niels Bohr. Vol. 1. Rpt. ed. Cambridge: Cambridge UP, 1934. Woodbridge, CT: Ox Bow Press, 1987a.Google Scholar
  5. Bohr, Niels. The Philosophical Writings of Niels Bohr. 3 vols. Woodbridge, Conn.: Ox Bow Press, 1987b.Google Scholar
  6. Bohr, Niels and John Archibald Wheeler. “The Mechanism of Nuclear Fission.” Physical Review 56.5 (1 September 1939): 426–450.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  7. Cassidy, David C. Uncertainty: The Life and Science of Werner Heisenberg. New York: Freeman, 1992.Google Scholar
  8. Cassidy, David C. Beyond Uncertainty: Heisenberg, Quantum Physics, and the Bomb. New York: Bellevue Literary Press, 2009.Google Scholar
  9. D’Andrea, Paul and John Klein. The Einstein Project. New York: Dramatists Play Service, 2004.Google Scholar
  10. Derrida, Jacques. “Différance.” Trans. Alan Bass. Margins of Philosophy. Bulletin de la société française de philosophie, July-September 1968, and Theorie d’ensemble, coll. Tel Quel (Paris: Editions du Sueil, 1968). Ed. Alan Bass. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1982. 1–27.Google Scholar
  11. Derrida, Jacques. Specters of Marx: The State of the Debt, the Work of Mourning, and the New International. Trans. Peggy Kamuf. New York and London: Routledge, 1994.Google Scholar
  12. Derrida, Jacques. “Ethics and Politics Today.” Trans. Elizabeth Rottenberg. Negotiations: Interventions and Interviews 1971–2001. Ed. Elizabeth Rottenberg. Stanford, CA: Stanford University Press, 2002a. 295–314.Google Scholar
  13. Derrida, Jacques. “Force of Law: ‘the Mystical Foundation of Authority’.” Trans. Mary Quaintance. Acts of Religion. Ed. Gil Anidjar. New York and London: Routledge, 2002b. 230–298.Google Scholar
  14. Dörries, Matthias, Ed. Michael Frayn’s Copenhagen in Debate: Historical Essays and Documents on the 1941 Meeting Between Niels Bohr and Werner Heisenberg. Berkeley: Office for History of Science and Technology, University of California, Berkeley, 2005.Google Scholar
  15. Frayn, Michael. Copenhagen. New York: Anchor, 1998.Google Scholar
  16. Frayn, Michael. Afterword. Copenhagen. New York: Anchor, 2000.Google Scholar
  17. Frayn, Michael. “‘Copenhagen’ Revisited.” The New York Review of Books. 49.5 (8 March 2002): 22–24.Google Scholar
  18. Hägglund, Martin. Radical Atheism: Derrida and the Time of Life. Meridian: Crossing Aesthetics. Ed. Werner Hamacher. Stanford: Stanford U P, 2008.Google Scholar
  19. Herbert, Nick. Quantum Reality: Beyond the New Physics. New York: Anchor, 1987.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  20. King, Robert L. “The Play of Uncertain Ideas.” The Massachusetts Review. 42.2 (Summer 2001): 165–175.Google Scholar
  21. Kipphardt, Heinar. In the Matter of J. Robert Oppenheimer: A Play Freely Adapted on the Basis of the Documents by Heinar Kipphardt. Trans. Ruth Speirs. New York: Hill and Wang, 1969.Google Scholar
  22. Klemm, David E. “‘The Darkness inside the Human Soul’: Uncertainty in Theological Humanism and Michael Frayn’s Play Copenhagen.” Literature & Theology. 18.3 (September 2004): 292–307.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  23. Morgan, Elaine. Licence to Murder. London: Samuel French, 1963.Google Scholar
  24. Penniston, Penny. Now Then Again. New York: Broadway Play Pub., 2001.Google Scholar
  25. Shepherd-Barr, Kirsten. Science on Stage: From Doctor Faustus to Copenhagen. Princeton & Oxford: Princeton U P, 2006.Google Scholar
  26. Staub, August W. “The Scientist as Byronic Hero: Michael Frayn’s Copenhagen.” Journal of Dramatic Theory and Criticism. 16.2 (Spring 2002): 133–141.Google Scholar
  27. Stoppard, Tom. Arcadia. London and Boston: Faber and Faber, 1999a.Google Scholar
  28. Stoppard, Tom. Hapgood. Tom Stoppard: Plays Five. London: Faber and Faber, 1999b. 483–593.Google Scholar
  29. Walker, Mark. “The History Behind Historical Fiction.” in Dörries, 2005. 89–100.Google Scholar
  30. Wouk, Herman. The Traitor. New York: Samuel French, 1949.Google Scholar

Copyright information

© The Author(s) 2018

Authors and Affiliations

  • Jenni G. Halpin
    • 1
  1. 1.Savannah State UniversitySavannahUSA

Personalised recommendations