Motif studies

When Foucault points out that to recognize things is to unveil a system of similarities which binds them to each other, he refers to a deeply human activity that also informs literature and literary scholarship. In concrete terms, this is reflected in the recurring theme (in the sense of Christine Lubkoll’s ‘inhaltliches Muster’) of separation from one’s parents, a frequent topic in children’s and young-adult media that connects Oliver Twist, Harry Potter and countless other characters across genres, styles and types of media. Foucault calls these relationships “knots in a net”. The knots correspond to the literary motif, which constitutes a net of narrative media while simultaneously being constituted by them. Professor Tobias Kurwinkel’s (German Studies/Literary Studies) project ‘Transmediale Motivik’ set out to establish a highly selective, operationalisable definition of the concept of ‘motif’ alongside a model for analysing and typologising motifs in children’s and young-adult media. That model, a crucial foundation for all further research in the project, was first presented in a 2019 publication. It also gave rise to a symposium at the University of Duisburg-Essen. The project results are currently being prepared for publication (with funding from the University of Bremen as a focus project).