Philology of Adventure

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Adventure and Suspense. Towards a History of their Relationship

Comparative Literature and Literary Theory, LMU Munich
Principal Investigator: PD Dr. habil. Wolfram Ette


Sherlock Holmes and Professor Moriatry at the Reichenbach Falls.

Sidney Paget, illustration to Arthur Conan Doyles’ The Final Problem (1893).

The aim of the planned project is to explore the concept of suspense in literature from a historical perspective. Essential to the project is the hypothesis that since the middle Ages the ‘narrative desire’ of suspense has developed in close interaction with narratives of adventures. The present project shall therefore contribute to the investigation of two central paradigms of popular literature, the origins of which are not conform, but historically interconnected. Through an analysis of differences and similarities, ‘suspense’ and ‘adventure’ are to become mutually illuminating concepts. The genesis of adventure as a literary paradigm in the Middle Ages gains clarity, when seen against the transformations of the concept and the techniques of literary suspense. Conversely, the history of suspense should be traced on the basis of adventure narratives, as both were largely coextensive at least until the late 18th century.

The questions underlying the project derive not only from the history of literature but also the history of culture. On one hand, the literary-historical contexts – the communication of literature with its own history – are explored. On the other, the research focuses on the economic, technical and media related conditions that contributed to the continuous shifts in the conceptualization of literature and in the expectations towards literary narratives in the modern era.

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