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Writer as Reader Workshops

Embracing Uncertainty: Belief and Doubt in Hamlet and Copenhagen

November 2, 2012

As a society, we privilege action and certainty; as educators, we tend to reinforce this in the way we ask our students to talk, write, and think. This workshop explores the role of doubt in Shakespeare’s Hamlet and Michael Frayn’s Copenhagen. Both playwrights emphasize uncertainty and its difficulties, and also suggest its benefits. Moral and philosophical wondering are central to Hamlet’s character. Especially through the play’s soliloquies, Shakespeare underscores the way hesitation and inaction run counter to Hamlet’s culture. In Copenhagen, Frayn reimagines several versions of a conversation between physicists Niels Bohr and Werner Heisenberg, organizing the play around Heisenberg’s Uncertainty Principle, one of the fundamental concepts of quantum physics. Copenhagen highlights the way doubt and indeterminacy work in science, and how those uncertainties are linked to friendship, memory, politics, and ethics. The workshop provides a set of practices to help us read each text, to imagine how the plays can be studied together, and to consider the value of uncertainty in our classrooms and in our lives.

Texts: Hamlet by William Shakespeare (any edition) and Copenhagen by Michael Frayn (Anchor, 2000)

8:30am-4:30pm
BARD COLLEGE
Workshop fee: $150 (includes morning coffee, lunch, and 
workshop materials)