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Victorian Tourists and Climbers in the Alps: Sinking the Sublime

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  • UserAnn C. Colley, SUNY Distinguished Professor, Department of English. SUNY College at Buffalo, Visiting Fellow, Wolfson College
  • ClockWednesday 11 May 2011, 13:00-14:00
  • HouseCombination Room, Wolfson College.

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This talk examines the role that mountains played in the British imagination within the Victorian period. I shall concentrate on the invasion of British tourists and climbers in the Alps during the second half of the nineteenth century. In this talk I hope to explain how these individuals transformed or compromised/undercut (“sank”) the Romantic ideas of the sublime previously expressed in the poetry of Wordsworth, Coleridge, and Shelley. To demonstrate and explore this shift away from the cult of the sublime, I look at diaries written by these tourists, published accounts of their travels and climbs, as well as satirical drawings of the period. For instance, one of the editors of Punch sarcastically reported that the route to the summit of Mont Blanc was about to be carpeted! The talk will be illustrated with images from these nineteenth-century texts. This talk is based upon a chapter in my recent book Victorians in the Mountains: Sinking the Sublime.

This talk is part of the Wolfson College Lunchtime Seminar Series - Wednesdays of Full Term series.

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