El Capitan as a Site for Male Healing from Trauma in Jeff Long’s The Wall and Tommy Caldwell’s The Push

  • Harri Salovaara Department of Language and Communication Studies at University of Jyväskylä, FinlandANDUniversity of Vaasa, Finland
  • Marinella Rodi-Risberg Department of Language and Communication Studies at University of Jyväskylä, Finland
Keywords: El Capitan, nature, trauma, masculinity, Jeff Long, Tommy Caldwell

Abstract

Abstract

         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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Author Biographies

Harri Salovaara, Department of Language and Communication Studies at University of Jyväskylä, FinlandANDUniversity of Vaasa, Finland

PhD student in the Department of Language and Communication Studies at University of Jyväskylä, Finland, and English teacher at University of Vaasa, Finland. Co-organizer of EASLCE webinars. Dissertation project examines male mountaineers and their relationships to the environment.

Marinella Rodi-Risberg, Department of Language and Communication Studies at University of Jyväskylä, Finland

Marinella Rodi-Risberg, Affiliated Researcher with the Department of Language and Communication Studies, University of Jyväskylä, Finland. Her work focuses primarily on the representation of trauma in contemporary narratives and has appeared in such journals as Critique: Studies in Contemporary Fiction and Studies in the Novel. One of her most recent publications is a chapter, “Problems in Representing Trauma,” in Trauma and Literature, edited by J. Roger Kurtz (Cambridge University Press).

Published
2019-09-16