In her compelling new book, Victorians in the Mountains: Sinking the Sublime, Ann C. Colley examines the shift away from the cult of the sublime that characterized the early part of the nineteenth century to the less reverential perspective from which the Victorian regarded mountain landscapes. And what a multifaceted perspective it was, as unprecedented numbers of the Victorian middle and professional classes took themselves off on mountaineering holidays so commonplace that editors of Punch sarcastically reported that the route to the summit of Mont Blanc was carpeted.
In Part One of Victorians in the Mountains: Sinking the Sublime, Colley mines diaries and letters to show the ways in which everyday tourists and climbers both responded to and undercut ideas about the sublime, showing how technological advances like the telescope transformed mountains into theatrical spaces where tourists thrilled to the sight of struggling climbers; almost inevitably, these distant performances were eventually reenacted at exhibitions and on the London stage. Colley's examination of the Alpine Club archives, periodicals, and other primary resources offers a more complicated and inclusive picture of female mountaineering as she documents the strong presence of women on successful expeditions in the latter half of the century.
Part Two of Victorians in the Mountains: Sinking the Sublime, turns to three major literary figures - John Ruskin, Gerard Manley Hopkins, and Robert Louis Stevenson - whose writings about the Alps reflect their feelings about their Romantic heritage and offer insight into their ideas about perception, metaphor, and literary style. Colley concludes with a reflection on how expeditions to the Himalayas affected people's sense of the sublime, showing that these individuals were as much involved in the glory of the Empire as they were guided by aesthetic sensibility. Her book is an astute exploration of nationalism, as well as theories of gender, spectacle, and the technicalities of glacial movement that were intruding on what before had seemed inviolable.
Includes 46 b&w illustrations
c. 260 pages