Philology of Adventure

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The Research Unit

Research Agenda

The concept of adventure refers to an elementary nucleus of storytelling – ‘elementary’ in a narratological as well as in a psychological sense. Adventure is not only a genuinely narrative term, but also, and unlike other basic literary concepts, a term of distinctly medieval origin. The narrative, perceptual and experiential pattern that goes by that name has proved extremely adaptive, despite all the criticism levelled against it in the modern age. It has seen more than one literary renaissance and has crossed over into ever new areas of culture (like film, computer games, advertising, tourism, etc.). Often, in such crossovers the originally narrative character of adventure is no longer taken into account.

Since that character is essentially textual a philology of adventure is required in order to integrate the term into an anthropology of storytelling. Adventures are trails in the undergrowth of contingency. They call for a reflection on chance, fate, daring, risk and the event horizons of storytelling, on our claim for meaningful sequence and on our ways of making sense. Situated on a phenomenological level, the concept of adventure also enables us to address the libidinal aspect of narrative, raising questions that cannot be asked in the established vocabulary of structural narratology. In contrast, the research agenda we are proposing promises to yield insights into the libidinal underpinnings of storytelling and reading. Accordingly, the research group will investigate adventure not only from the vantage points of literary history, narratology and the theory of fiction, but also in terms of the psychology of literature.


Granted by the German Research Foundation for a first funding period of three years, the Research Unit “Philology of Adventure” took up its work in April 2018. It brings together nine projects dedicated to constellations of adventurous storytelling, covering a historical range from Late Antiquity to the twentieth century and involving scholars from the fields of Comparative Literature and Literary Theory, Romance Philology, German, English and Slavonic Studies as well as Religious Studies. Eight projects are based at LMU Munich, one project at FU Berlin.