Philology of Adventure

Language Selection

Breadcrumb Navigation


Workshop „The Pleasures of Peril“

Rereading Anglophone Adventure Fiction, Then and Now

08.05.2020 at 09:30  – 09.05.2020 at 13:00 

Unfortunately, the event has been cancelled due to the coronavirus.

Venue: Lyrik Kabinett, Amalienstraße 83, 80799 München

Adventure fiction often seems embarrassing. George Orwell once called Kipling’s work “almost a shameful pleasure, like the taste for cheap sweets that some people secretly carry into middle life”. In just this way, sophisticated readers often view adventure writing as a juvenile indulgence, full of clichés, bogus action, silly heroes and cheap thrills. Accordingly, the history of modern literature can be told as a programmatic resistance to adventure, discarding and denouncing the departure into some wild and open space, full of hope and promise and beyond the strict confines of everyday routines, as a tale of the past: archaic, conservative, colonial, conventional.

And yet, adventure has never really left the scene. As implied in Orwell’s quip, the pleasures may be perilous but carry on – and are being carried, not just into adult life, but also into modern literature. Even an avant-gardist like Virginia Woolf acknowledged how the English seafaring tradition, codified in Hakluyt’s Navigations, captured and enraptured her – “I used to read it & dream of those obscure adventures” – as testified in many of her novels, like Orlando or even Mrs Dalloway, which take up, take on and transform adventure rhetorics of risk and fortune. In particular, performances of masculinity in the twentieth or twenty-first centuries continue to draw on the adventure genre and its gender repertoire to rethink or redress contemporary sexual politics. Similarly, postcolonial writers have frequently engaged with versions of adventure writing – consciously, critically, creatively – so as to reconsider and re-envision imperial legacies and texts from early modern to Victorian times as part of their own agenda.

Crucially, the classics of adventure all take us across thresholds, into unknown, liminal or interstitial space, to the margins of a world and always beyond boundaries. It is this trope of transgression that allies the adventure quest not just to fantasies of conquest, dominance and power but potentially also to more subversive ventures that renegotiate the bonds and bounds which make up our daily world. The workshop thus focuses on the residues, rewritings and/or reappropriations of adventure tales in modernist, postcolonial, postmodern and contemporary fiction.