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The Adventure: Twenty-First-Century Perspectives

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Organizer: Lukasz Wodzynski

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Dictionaries define adventure as an undertaking usually involving danger and unknown risks, the encountering of risks itself, or an exciting or remarkable experience. From The Epic of Gilgamesh and the wanderings of Odysseus to postmodern fiction and beyond, accounts of adventures constitute the backbone of world literary heritage. Paul Zweig suggests that “the narrative art itself arose from the need to tell an adventure,” Northrop Frye calls romance - another name for adventure story - “the structural core of all fiction” and Joseph Campbell makes adventure the kernel of experience in his “hero’s journey” monomyth. This universal dimension of adventure reflects the widely shared and deeply ingrained belief that, as human beings, we are fundamentally adventurers, and that our lives – whether seen in secular or religious terms – can be construed as great adventures in this world. 

Despite its noble genealogy, adventure has a peculiar status in our culture. On the one hand, it is now nearly ubiquitous. However, this ubiquity has a price as the idea and, in many cases, the experience itself have become thoroughly commodified. The modern adventurer has become an indefatigable shopper. On the other hand, with new technologies – credit cards, digital banking, GPS, the Internet, smartphones, social media, etc. - and the ongoing development and commercialization of potential sites for adventure, the possibilities for experiencing “genuine adventures” seem to be fewer and fewer. 

This seminar invites papers that explore how culture reflects and responds to the changing status and role of adventure experiences in the modern world (in literature, film, and other media). 

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