INSIDE/OUT - 'Mountains & Desire'
In this lecture Margret Grebowicz will focus specifically on cultural or semiotic exhaustion. What do mountains mean if not places to be conquered? What kind of being is one whose life projects no longer take the form of reaching the next measurable peak?
The recent rise of interest in climbing – active, in the form of commercialized mountaineering and climbing walls in university gyms and corporate offices, and passive, in the form of an explosion of mountaineering literature and visual culture in corporate advertising, cinema, and social media – is not just a fad, but a deeper cultural symptom, for which I propose something like a diagnosis.
The high altitude climber has become the favorite figure of corporate success, but at the same time, the most recent events seem to point to something like an end or limit of climbing itself—from the untimely and unexpected death of Ueli Steck, considered by many the best mountaineer in the history of the sport, to the enormous success of Free Solo, the 2018 documentary about Alex Honnold’s historic rope-less climb of El Cap, to the recent public outrage over the degradation of Everest. This is the tension Margaret will explore with the help of her concept of “peak climbing,” which provides a framework for thinking about the exhaustion of environments on multiple levels.
Margret Grebowicz explores the cultural aspects of environmental problems and solutions in her writing and public speaking. She is the author of Whale Song, The National Park to Come, Why Internet Porn Matters, Beyond the Cyborg: Adventures with Donna Haraway, and numerous academic articles on topics in animal studies, science and technology studies, and feminist environmental ethics. Her recent essays, in venues like The Atlantic and The Philosophical Salon, cover topics from the Himalaya and Chernobyl to interactive dog feeders and artificial insemination of bees. She has worked as a professional jazz vocalist in New York City and a philosophy professor at the University of Houston-Downtown, Goucher College in Baltimore, Maryland, and the University of Tyumen, Russia. She lives on a windy hilltop in northwest upstate New York, where she delights in the weak WiFi.