Polar discovery as a literary theme is located between fact and fiction, between realpolitikinterests and metaphorical/fantastic issues. But what does this mean to nineteenth and twentieth-century fictional narratives of polar exploration? How does literature relate (and react) to actual polar exploration? How do fantasies of polar exploration deal with the idea of blank spaces at the ends of the world as both metaphorical places and spaces of discovery and exploitation? And what are the special connections, interferences and contradictions between these two levels?
This project critically examines such questions with respect to selected novels written by Edgar Allen Poe as well as by two groups of German authors: those writing between 1910 and 1925, and those writing at the end of the twentieth century. The central concerns of my study are, firstly, the tracing of the core characteristics of a modern poetic of fictional polar journeys, and, secondly, the embedding of particular analyses into both historical/national backgrounds and into a reconstruction of contemporary discourses of conquest. This project also takes a historical perspective, focusing on the literary and cultural relatiosnhips between Poe’s polar fiction and German polar fictions of the twentieth century as well as on developments within German literature during this period.