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Momenta of the Marvelous

Subproject by Falk Quenstedt

The project examines how different aspects of the marvelous are conceptualised in narrative texts from three different periods in premodern German literary history: 1) German courtly novels of the late 13th and early 14th century, especially Wildhelm von Österreich and its later prose adaptation; 2) prose narratives of the incunabula period, such as Herzog Ernst F or Brandan; and 3) Early New High German prose novels such as Melusine, Fortunatus, Historia D. Johann Fausten and Wagnerbuch.

Even beyond their shared interest in the marvelous, these texts have much in common: they all depict remote regions of the world as realms where different kinds of mirabilia can be encountered and, in doing so, transfer elements of scholarly traditions of knowledge into literary contexts. Further, all of these texts do not merely depict Mediterranean sites but also have connections to Mediterranean literatures themselves, including Arabic narratives. Another common feature is that they construct a pagan, Islamic world in a way that links it closely with the Mediterranean as region.

The project focusses on individual motifs of the marvelous and the dynamics of their transfer in and between these texts. Methodically, it looks at specific points of intersection between the epistemic, social, economic and (trans-)cultural domains in order to investigate their role in the transfer of knowledge described and enacted in and by the texts. One crucial aspect of the analysis lies in the question of whether there is an interplay between the rhetorical and narrative constructions of the marvelous with their specific temporal dimensions, on the one hand, and the social, material, and medial aspects of the texts, on the other hand – and if so, what aspects are involved in this interplay.