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Public Lecture: Magnus Echtler on "Gendered Bodies in Mountain Movies"

28 April and 5 May 2022
5 p.m.
Seminargebäude, Room S 403

Mountaineering developed as a British leisure activity in the Alps in the 19th century, when bourgeois tourists first watched sublime mountains, and eventually risked their lives climbing them. Taking place in a secularized landscape, mountaineers considered their sensuous, bodily activity as non-religious. However, they experienced facing death as transformative, and imagined mountains as active foes in a realm of wilderness set apart from everyday life in modern society. From the early 20th century onward, climbing mountains featured in movies that promised to make the experience accessible to urban mass audiences. The documentary film Free Solo, which won an Oscar in 2018, can be regarded as a late and spectacular example of this tradition.

In today’s session, we look at how these movies affect us bodily, and discuss whether mountaineers and movie audiences have secular bodies. Mountaineering materializes in gendered bodies: Heroic men face death by climbing mountains, while women worry about or entice men, but stay in the valleys. We highlight these heteronormative role models by looking at a movie and a climber who challenged them.