Mountaineering and British Romanticism:The Literary Cultures of Climbing, 1770-1836

Bainbridge, Simon (2020) Mountaineering and British Romanticism:The Literary Cultures of Climbing, 1770-1836. Oxford University Press, Oxford. ISBN 9780198857891

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This book examines the relationship between Romantic-period writing and the activity that Samuel Taylor Coleridge christened ‘mountaineering’ in 1802 (CL, II, 848). It argues that mountaineering developed as a pursuit in Britain during the Romantic era, earlier than is generally recognized, and shows how major writers including William and Dorothy Wordsworth, Samuel Taylor Coleridge, Ann Radcliffe, John Keats, Lord Byron, and Walter Scott were central to its invention. Locating these writers within the wider context of the period’s emerging genre of mountaineering literature, the book explores how the desire for physical ascent shaped Romantic-period literary culture and illustrates how the figure of the mountaineer became crucial to creative identities and literary outputs. By reading the work of canonical writers alongside a wide range of other types of mountaineering literature, it reassesses key Romantic-period terms and ideas, including vision, insight, elevation, revelation, transcendence, and the sublime. However, the book also uses the focus on mountaineering to challenge the prioritization of concepts of vision and the imagination in Romantic studies, arguing instead for a greater emphasis on the role of embodiment and movement in the creation of Romantic-period texts.

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13 Sep 2019 09:20
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12 Sep 2023 03:48