Philology of Adventure

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An Anatomy Lesson of Narrated Adventure. Theorizing Adventure Literature in the Early Soviet Union

Slavonic Studies, LMU Munich
Principal Investigator: Prof. Dr. Riccardo Nicolosi
Postdoctoral researcher: Dr. Brigitte Obermayr


Džim Dollar (=Mariėtta Šaginjan), Mess Mend or: the Yankees in Petrograd, 1924. Cover design: Alekxandr Rodčenko.

Early Soviet literary culture (from the 1920s to the early 1930s) holds a specific position in the context of European modernism and its doubts, rejections and transformations of adventure: In early Soviet literary culture intense theoretic reflections on forms and functions of adventure literature go hand in hand with experimental applications of the very laws that are discussed in these debates.

Against this background the project’s aim is twofold: The first one, oriented towards the history of literature and theory, explores the significance and function of adventure for the formation of new literary theories (the proto-narratological theory of prose and genre in Formalism, Bakhtin’s early literary theory, comparative-historical theories of the novel, factography’s sceptical disapproval of fictionality). The second one, oriented towards systematic aspects, approaches its material with respect to issues generally significant for adventure literature, such as adventure’s narrative techniques, the notion of experience and the evolution of genre.

In exploring these two strands the project takes as its starting point the hypothesis that the analysed texts may be regarded as an ‘anatomy lesson’ of narrated adventure: the material exposes and, indeed, analyses central issues of adventure literature such as phenomena of narrative combination (including ‘storiness’, correlations between serialism and contingency, motivation, eventfulness), or the relationship between fictionality and factuality. Thus, the theoretical and literary texts themselves perform a philology of adventure, they put forward positions within the controversial debates in both the literary and socio-political spheres. They favour or reject adventure – taken either as experiment, or as entertainment or as an emphatic affirmation of freedom. The project aims at exploring the far-reaching implications of such a constellation.

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