El Capitan as a Site for Male Healing from Trauma in Jeff Long’s The Wall and Tommy Caldwell’s The Push
Nature and mountains are often represented as places of healing in literature and the media, especially for white, healthy, and middleclass men. However, discussions on nature and gender in relation to trauma are rare, and a specific discussion on the representation of male mountain climbers’ traumas is missing. In this article, we are interested in how nature, particularly the famous mountain El Capitan, is represented in Jeff Long’s novel The Wall (2006) and Tommy Caldwell’s memoir The Push (2017) as a specific spatial location of healing for male rock climbers, who at the same time are both victims of traumatic events and partially responsible for the development of those events. More specifically, this article places ecofeminist and ecological masculinities scholarship in dialog with trauma studies and analyzes these texts with the aim of showing how representations of trauma relate to those of nature and masculinity. In this analysis, questions of how certain aspects of ecological and hegemonic masculinities relate to representing trauma, nature, and masculinity are central, as are issues of perpetrator trauma and the non-generic character of traumatic experience. Ultimately, we show how representations of nature, trauma, and masculinities in the primary texts converge and reflect a plurality of gendered responses to trauma and healing in nature.
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