Philology of Adventure

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Sacrifice and Masquerade: The Ancient Adventure Novel as a Hybrid Genre

Religious Studies, Free University of Berlin
Principal Investigator: Prof. Dr. Susanne Gödde


In the first stage of funding, the project has examined adventure as both a narrative pattern and a pattern of experience in the ancient Greek novel by employing phenomenology, narratology, and discourse analysis. The central focal points of this study have been adventure as a plot device, the religious dimension of the characters’ agency, and the intricate interrelation of providence and contingency. Two other main points of interest, reflecting the project’s critical engagement with Bakhtin’s concept of ‘adventure-time’, have been the narratological significance of retardation and the semiotics and semantics of the human body – both in its unharmed and untouched state and as an entity shaped and marked by adventure. The extent to which these highly-reflexive texts develop a new pattern of prose narration specific to the adventure novel out of older topoi and plot devices could be repeatedly observed in the course of research. The ancient novel has often been shown to combine genres and elements of style, and it is to be determined to what extent this applies to adventure more specifically. The proposed project will no longer focus on adventure as a scenario of existential crisis and trial, but on its playful, subversive, and metapoetic narrative mode, which relies heavily on the novels’ intertextuality and self-referentiality. This approach will concentrate especially on tragic and comic elements of plot (such as sacrifice, death, masquerade, and intrigue) as well as on the potential novelistic transformation of tragedy and comedy. The planned shift in focus calls for a comparative reading of the Greek and the (in part contemporary) Latin novels (Apuleius, Petronius). The project’s new scope, which builds on the results of the research conducted in the previous years, also includes deliberations on an ancient theory of the comic, for which the narrative pattern of adventure is postulated to be essential.

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Previous Project (1. Funding Period)