Lincoln Allison, emeritus reader in politics, University of Warwick, is reading Robert Macfarlane’s Mountains of the Mind (Granta, 2003)
Mountains were: forbidden and forbidding, an odious nuisance, God-forsaken and ugly, an “other” to be avoided.
Mountains are: sublime and beautiful, a challenge and a sustenance for the human spirit, God’s finest creation and an “other” to be sought out as a respite from civilisation.
The transition in the perception of mountains has been going on since the end of the medieval period, though it accelerated rapidly in the first half of the nineteenth century. It has been discussed in many fields, but rarely so fluently or comprehensively as by Macfarlane. Mountains deals with the theology and geology of the subject as well as the more familiar (to my mind) topics of mountains in relation to art and sport. Even better, he successfully combines his scholarship with an intense personal essay because he is a mountaineer, part of a sub-culture with a complex and contradictory relation to the mainstream.
Lincoln Allison August 2017
(Comment for “What I’m Reading” Times Higher Education )