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The American Adrenaline Narrative

Day of Scholarship Presentation, Stockton College, March 21, 2013.

Kristin J.

on 14 April 2014

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Transcript of The American Adrenaline Narrative

The American Adrenaline Narrative
Nature as Object
Who Has the Luxury
to Play at Survival?
Seek to Conquer and Control Nature
Nature = a dangerous, unpredictable force (nature is often feminized)
Literary Analysis: genre definition/study
Cultural Analysis: environmental & feminist significance
American writers/texts
Primarily nonfiction book-length narratives published after 1970:
Watershed for environmental movement
April 1970 = the first Earth Day
Watershed for feminism
Development of second and third wave feminism
Emergence of contemporary extreme sports and culture
1974 publication of R. Messner's 7th Grade: Most Extreme Climbing
Definition: narratives about extreme outdoor adventures that push the limits of human endurance (genres include: fiction, nonfiction, film, television, social media, blogs, print magazines)
The Genre
Setting: natural environment and involving some aspect of exploration and/or survival
Plot: tells the story of the trials and triumphs of those who continue to explore and test the boundaries of the natural environment; often follows the adventurer's journey away from a specific location, on to a goal, and then back home again
Tone/Theme: degree of "adrenaline"
The "environmental crisis involves a crisis of the imagination"
~Lawrence Buell
What kind of land ethics do these narratives promote?
What desires toward nature do the narrative promote?
What are the gendered natures of these desire?
Literary & Cultural Analysis

Three Desiring Natures
Object of Desire
Rely on Transcendental Religious Discourse to Express Connections with Nature
Nature = spiritual
Each journey is unique, but the narratives share a telling of a ritualized, "miraculous" and/or transformative experience
"Climbing has always been more than a physical pursuit for me. Each mountain I face is another pinnacle in an internal adventure. An exploration of myself, an expression of my spirit. . . . when my life turned sour, the tip of Everest gained significance. . . . Reaching the wind swept perch, I decided, would cleanse my spirit and heal my wounds. More than that, it would send me home with a title: The First American Woman to Climb Everest" (Stacy Allison, Beyond the Limits: A Woman's Triumph on Everest, 6-7).
Vehicle of Transformation
Deep Ecology:
Based in Mutual Relationships with Nature
Nature = sensate entity; an equal with or even superior to the human adventurer
"Changing, changing, constantly changing, she cast a rhythmic, sensuous spell. A sleek, beautiful goddess, alluringly seductive, forgiving to those who love her, dispassionately indifferent to those who do not. Lovingly she folds herself around a rock, teasingly she laps at the shore, stroking and caressing it, forming and molding it to her desires. . . . Bedecked in a million diamonds, she dances a sunlit dream lost in ecstasy. In the flash of an instant she is capable of creating a bubbling, intoxicating happiness or a frustrating helplessness, the highest exhilaration or the deepest, darkest fear" (Patricia C. McCairen, Canyon Solitude, 51-52).
Active Participant
("the mountain thinks")
Critical Inspiration for Three Desiring Natures
Chaia Heller's Ecology of Everyday Life: Rethinking the Desire for Nature

Carolyn Merchant's Radical Ecology: The Search for a Livable World

Susan Griffin's The Eros of Everyday Life: Essays on Ecology, Gender and Society

Catrin Gersdofs's "Ecocritical Uses of the Erotic"

Bron Taylor's Dark Green Religion
Zotero Bibliography:
The American Adrenaline Narrative

Kristin J. Jacobson
Associate Professor of American Literature & Women's, Gender, & Sexuality Studies

The Richard Stockton College of New Jersey: kristin.jacobson@stockton.edu
"One object of my venture [running the Apurimac] was to demonstrate, while it was still possible, that this river does have lasting values beyond those of hydropower and agriculture" (J. Calvin Giddings, qtd. in Joe Kane, Running the Amazon, 82)
"It seems ironic that this pollution should serve as a signpost of my salvation" (Steven Callahan, Adrift: Seventy-six Days Lost at Sea, 183)
"In forty days, we had seen country as beautiful as any that exists. But for each fiery red slope, dark basalt cliff, and pure white ice tower, there was a shocking display of human waste" (Jill Fredston, Rowing to Latitude, 275).
Genre/Activity Dominated by Whites
Male Dominated
Dominated by Heteronormative Codes
"Starving Artists"
Extreme Environmentalism and EcoTerrorism
Cody Lundin
Dave Canterbury
Straight White Male
Image Source: http://www.tacticalintelligence.net/images/david_canterbury.jpg
Image Source: http://4.bp.blogspot.com/-Fbl3V5ADXIA/Tjr_tqPSB0I/AAAAAAAAAE0/hHm06T-YnG4/s1600/cody_lundin.jpg
Dual Survival
Conquer Nature
Work "with Nature"
"You come to the swamp, you better leave your skirt at home." ~Dave Canterbury
Minimalist & primitive skills survival expert
Discovery Channel
Krakauer's Peak Performance Problem:
"Straddling the top of the world, one foot in China and the other in Nepal" (Into Thin Air 3).
Krakauer reveals he "just couldn't summon the energy to care" (Into Thin Air 4).
Intersectional Analysis
Gendered Nature of Risk
"I'm sorry, but I see this and can't help but how wrong this is. I'm glad rock-climbing may be invigorating or something that's done to clear her mind. I'm glad that at the end of the day you can make a cute YouTube video about rock-climbing while pregnant. Yes, I see the safety harness but all it takes is one accident and two lives are changed forever. Even if that harness has less than a 1% chance of failing, why risk it? Careless in my opinion but people will say otherwise. Accidents do happen." 305sFinestt
Posted on YouTube.
Femininity and Masculinity Are Defined by Risk
Majority of extreme adventure narratives do not complicate a conservative version of masculinity (and femininity)
"Your masculinity is only as secure as your last competitive achievement. This fear of what nature might reveal is an endemic aspect of dominant forms of masculinity. It is built upon a denial of what cannot be denied, since it remains part of us" (Victor Seidler, Unreasonable Men: Masculinity and Social Theory, 18).
Day of Scholarship: March 21, 2013
The White Shaman
Part 1
Part 2
Part 3
Critique by Marxist philosopher Slavoj Žižek: "...certain environmentalists delight in proving that every catastrophe--even natural ones--is man-made, that we are all guilty, we exploited too much, we weren't feminine enough. All this bullshit. Why? Because it makes the situation 'safer.' If it is us who are the bad guys, all we have to do is change our behavior. But in fact Mother Nature is not good--it's a crazy bitch."
Masculinity/femininity inextricably connected to our environmental imagination
Need to redefine/reimagine (mainstream American) masculinity/femininity to achieve greater ecological sustainability
Full transcript