Call for Book Chapters for edited volume: Mountains and Memoir

deadline for submissions: 
October 31, 2020
full name / name of organization: 
Jenny Hall and Martin Hall

Mountaineering and Climbing have become extraordinarily popular lifestyle sports. More generally, mountain-going has been one of the fastest growing leisure activities of the past thirty years where an estimated, ‘10 million Americans go mountaineering annually’ (Macfarlane, 2004: 17) and In the United Kingdom 2.48 million people participate in recreational rock climbing and mountaineering (Mintel, 2018). The American Alpine Club, in their annual State of Climbing Report noted that in 2018 there were ‘7.7 million’ American climbers (2019: 6), ‘2,500 licenced USA climbing athletes’ (2019: 10) and that in 2017, ‘climbing as a whole contributed $12,450,000,000 to the economy’ (2019: 13), where in the UK, the British Mountaineering Council (BMC) membership currently stands at 76,000 individuals and 320 clubs. 

Dr Jenny Hall and Dr Martin Hall are editing a volume exploring the relationships between mountains and mountaineering, literature, media, film and popular culture. At current, the edited volume which is being proposed focusses on mountains and memory in popular culture, particularly looking at the literary memoir and its closeness and association with film and other media forms. The mountaineering memoir has a long and rich tradition. Extreme adventure memoirs are the stuff of legend and Hollywood movies. In Memoir: A History, Ben Yagoda makes the salient point that, ‘Memoir has become the central form of the culture’ and it this centrality and significance which drives the call for this book. Yet there is a paucity of scholarship that explores the mountaineering memoir as a powerful social influence these texts have had on our understanding of how mountains are constructed, reproduced and performed.

Dianne Chisolm described the distinguished Lynn Hill’s 2002 book, Climbing Free as ‘the first history of free climbing and one of the first climbing histories ever to be presented from a woman’s perspective’ and mountaineers such as the eminently well-known Chris Bonington speak of a ‘boost in income from newspaper rights and the sudden rush of lectures’ (2017: 98) when as a result of his climbs, ‘every national newspaper ran a banner headline’ (2017: 97). Two central themes are covered, firstly, this book intends to interrogate is the relationship between these feats and the attention given them throughout the media and in the documented accounts by the climbers themselves. Secondly, we ask, to what extent do mountaineering texts create, rather than mirror reality, and how sustainable is this genre? Climbing and mountaineering texts from memoirs to documentaries are direct influencers for the ecological consciousness of athletes, authors, filmmakers and crucially their audiences. If more of these texts were as successful as Alex Honould’s Academy and BAFTA awarding winning film, Free Solo, the ramifications of influence could be enormous. Sustainability is a central theme of this book and concerns the body in the context of mountain spaces and places and as such considers the histographic influences of the sublime, and how and why this is embodied in living memory and performance through texts and films. The aim is to proliferate the powerful message that these books and films expound and problematize the neoliberal commercialisation of these highly sensitive mountain spaces and places through textual sources. Given that the UN Climate Change Summit is due to take place in Glasgow, United Kingdom in November 2020 this book will challenge the dominant narrative of consumption in these leisure and tourism spaces and how we engage with sensitive mountain environments and the communities.

Through a broadly interdisciplinary approach which calls for scholarship across philosophy, geography, social psychology, sport, literature, film studies and wider scope, the editors are looking for chapters which interrogate and elucidate upon the representation and prominence of mountaineering, in its widest meaning, in the memoir and its associated paratexts through film and television.

 Concepts may include but are not limited to:

  • Gender
  • Sexuality
  • Race
  • Disability
  • Sustainability/Environment
  • Education
  • Fitness
  • Wellbeing/Mental Health
  • Widening Participation
  • Travel/Borders/Transnationalism
  • Genre
  • Reality/Truth/Authenticity
  • Reification of the mountaineering hero
  • Deviant leisure
  • Globalism/localism/Covid-ism
  • Spirituality/Sublime
  • Haptics/Sensuality
  • Emotion
  • Politics/Governance
  • Subversion
  • Elitism/Exclusivity
  • Femininity/Masculinity
  • Death/Risk/Exposure 

Please submit a 300-word extract and a 200-word bio to mountainmemoirproject@gmail.com by October 31st