The dissertation is a political, discursive and technological history of Mount Everest in the twentieth century. During the period of time in which it has been climbed by Western mountaineers with the goal of reaching the summit, Mount Everest has functioned within different cultural regimes of meaning. "Transformations of a Metaphor" identifies and describes three of these regimes. First, Mount Everest functioned as an object of conquest for nationalist glory, then as an accoutrement of individual identity and finally (and currently) as a trophy of purchasable personal experience. These shifts have been enabled by the technologies deployed in both climbing and in communicating about climbing, including oxygen, food, personal narrative, and visual culture. Mount Everest can offer such a history not only because it is of broad and interdisciplinary interest, but also because the summit of the mountain serves as a metaphor across culture. As such, it repeatedly underwrites entrenched cultural values about authenticity, our relationship to the earth, the West's relationship to the East, and so on. Mount Everest can seem like the perfect metaphor because its sheer massive materiality proffers and undeniable referent. And yet that materiality has undergone meaning-making processes according to technologies and cultural values. This dissertation denaturalizes Mount Everest as a metaphor and show that, instead of an inevitable pursuit of goal-driven man, high altitude mountaineering, especially on Mount Everest, has been subject to the vagaries and accidents in a culture that only relatively recently decided that being up very high affirmed one's humanity.
Language ; Composition ; Rhetoric
ProQuest Dissertations & Theses Global
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