Engl 693 B1: Mountaineering Writing, Film, and Identity

J. Rak

Since 1760 when Horace-Bénédict de Saussure put up a reward for a successful summit of Mont Blanc in the French Alps, climbing the highest mountains in the world have played a central role in the way that much of the world has imagined conquest, human achievement and the place of wilderness in social life. Proceeding from the understanding that George Mallory really was joking when he said he wanted to climb Mount Everest simply "because it is there," we will investigate mountaineering as a set of cultural practices deeply embedded in ideas about gender, sexuality and the use of the body, race and colonialism, the development of modernity and the idea of wilderness. Mountaineering writing (most of it nonfictional) and films, including examples from the German Bergfilm genre and mountaineering documentaries, will focus our investigations. The theoretical texts touch on different aspects of mountaineering and its representations, and will include work by Blanchot, Caruth, Hansen, Butler, Braidotti, Smith/Watson and documentary film theory.


Arlene Blum, Annapurna, a Woman's Place

Junko Tabei and Helen Rolfe, Honouring High Places: The Mountain Life of Junko Tabei

Lene Gammelgaard, Climbing High: a Woman's Account of Surviving the Everest Tragedy

Tenzing Norgay with James Ramsay Ullman, Man of Everest

Joe Simpson, Touching the Void

Peter Boardman, The Shining Mountain

Hermann Buhl, Nanga Parmat Pilgrimage: the Lonely Challenge

Maurice Herzog, Annapurna

Kurt Diemberger, The Endless Knot

David Rose and Ed Douglas: Regions of the Heart: the Triumph and Tragedy of Alison Hargreaves


The Challenge (1938)

The Blue Light (1932)

The White Hell of Pitz Palu (1929)

Nanga Parbat (2010)

Blindsight (2006)

Touching the Void (2003)

The Wildest Dream (2010)

North Face (2008)

Women of K2 (2010)

Sherpa: Trouble on Everest (2015)