CALL FOR PAPERS: At the end of the world: extreme places of the British imagination: Textus n. X – 2016 Culture Issue


Textus n. X – 2016 Culture Issue

At the end of the world:

extreme places of the British imagination



Editor: Nicoletta Brazzelli (University of Milan)

Co-editor: Frédéric Regard (Paris-Sorbonne University)

Foreign copy editor: Patricia Hampton (University of Milan)



Spaces “at the end of the world” are geographical goals as well as literary and symbolic places. For centuries at the centre of the British cultural imagination, the most extreme sites of the earth have been the object of explorers’ and adventurers’ spatial desire, connected with physical and psychological danger, with life and death and survival. Strongly associated with the nineteenth and early twentieth-century English imperial expansion and appropriation of the earth, the extreme places have become places of daring adventure and, later, of exclusive excursionisms, always playing an ideological and iconic role in British modern and contemporary culture. Thus, separated from everyday human experience, extreme places are at the margins of the world yet at the very centre of the geographical imagination.

The Poles, North and South, the highest mountains (such as the Everest), but also dark forests, remote deserts, and waterfalls, canyons or caves are places of imagination even more than “real” places, including ample references to legends and myths, and deeply grounded in the founding narratives of the Western tradition– as Thule or El Dorado. The grandeur of the northern and southern extremes is a crucial topos of the aesthetic and iconographic representations processed by different media: painting, photography, popular publications and TV specials (such as The National Geographic’s), cinema.

In a meta-literary perspective, the colour white – a blank space to be filled by the steps of the explorers – symbolically points to the whiteness of the page, to the unwritten chronicles of the journeys to the furthest shores of the world and even of other worlds, if we consider for example the “whiteness” of the moon and the lunar journeys in the sixties and seventies of the twentieth century.

Cultural Studies, cultural geography, postcolonial studies and ecocriticism are the theoretical frames defining the major issues covered by this topic. Also tourist theories and approaches can contribute to the investigation of the meaning and significance of extreme places. In this perspective, the politics of preservation and the role of environmental protection are also involved.

Reference key-studies: Francis Spufford’s I May Be Some Time (1997) is actually an investigation of the British Polar “ethos”, weaving toge­ther the apparently disjunct threads of Robert Falcon Scott, Charlotte Brontë’s fascination with the Arctic and the genesis of Edmund Burke’s theory of the sublime, Frankenstein, John Cleves Symmes’ theory of a hollow earth filled with concentric spheres accessible at the poles, and Dicken’s Franklin-inspired work on the 1857 play The Frozen Deep.

In The Idea of North (2005), Peter Davidson moves through literature, art, and documentary records about experiences, imaginings, and representations of northern environments, pointing out that everyone carries one’s own idea of north within him/herself: this sort of treatise offers a virtual cornucopia of insight, showing the enduring value of comparative, cross-disciplinary and cross-cultural reflections. It opens up a vast and fertile common ground potentially shared by geography and the humanities.

From another perspective, Robert Macfarlane, in his Mountains of the Mind (2008), explores the connections between places and the human responses to them: mountains, like all wildernesses, challenge our deep-rooted conviction that the world has been made for humans; one forgets that there are environments which have their own rhythms and orders of existence. By speaking of greater forces than we can possibly experience, and by confronting us with greater spans of time than we can possibly envisage, mountains challenge our excessive trust in a man-made universe.


This cultural issue of Textus encourages theorethical reflections and analytical readings of written or visual texts dealing with the spatial imagination of extre­me places in different times of English and Anglophone cultures.

We welcome interdisciplinary approaches and invite proposals on subjects in­cluding, but not limited to:

        Spaces of adventure and cultural politics of the British Empire

        Exploration and discovery: representations through different media, such as narratives, paintings, photographs, films, documentaries, popular journals

        The South Pole and the exploration of Antarctica

        The North Pole and the exploration of the Arctic

        The Great White: travel narratives at the end of the world

        The concepts of “North” and “South” through their many manifestations in legend, painting and literature

        The Everest as the “roof of the world”

        Nature and sustainable tourism in liminal and fragile environments

        Tourism industry involving travel to dangerous places (mountains, fo­rests, deserts, caves, canyons, etc.)

        Places at the end of the world (especially Poles and high mountains) as symbols and icons

        Moon landings: an out-of-the-world landscape

        Cultural geography and the spatial imagination, especially referred to li­minal spaces

        Ecocriticism and extreme places

        Postcolonial studies and the representation of liminal areas

        Extreme landscapes and its ideological and emotional impact

        Outward and inward journeys to the limits

        Apocalyptical issues in the representation of places at the end of the world




Bonadei, Rossana – Volli, Ugo (a cura di), Lo sguardo del turista e il racconto dei luoghi, Milano, Franco Angeli, 2004.

Bonnett, Alastair, Off the Map: Lost Spaces, Invisible Cities, Forgotten Islands, Feral Places, and What They Tell us About the World, London, Aurum Press, 2014.

Brazzelli, Nicoletta, Lands of Desire and Loss. British Colonial and Postcolonial Spaces, Bern, Peter Lang, 2012.

Davidson, Peter, The Idea of North, London, Reaktion Books, 2005.

Dodds, Klaus, The Antarctic. A Very Short Introduction, Oxford, Oxford Univer­sity Press, 2012.

Jones, Max, The Last Great Quest. Captain Scott’s Antarctic Sacrifice, Oxford, Oxford University Press, 2003.

Kitzan, Laurence, Victorian Writers and the Image of Empire. The Rose-Colored Vision, Westport and London, Greenwood Press, 2001.

Macfarlane, Robert, Mountains of the Mind: A History of a Fascination, Granta, London, 2008.

Mailer, Norman, Of a Fire on the Moon, London, Pan, 1970.

Pagetti, Carlo, “Heart of Stone: il romance della geologia nell’epoca di Darwin”, in Francesco Gozzi – Anthony L. Johnson (a cura di), Scienza e immaginario, Pisa, Ets, 1997, pp. 221-141.

Pyne, S.P., The Ice, London, Phoenix, 2004.

Regard, Frédéric (ed.), Arctic Exploration in the Nineteenth Century. Disco­vering the Northwest Passage, London, Pickering & Chatto, 2013.

Shama, Simon, Landscape and Memory, London, HarperCollins, 1995.

Simpson-Housley, Paul, 1999, Cain’s Land: Literature and Mythology of the Po­lar Regions, North York, Ontario, Captus Press, 1999.

Spufford, Francis, I May Be Some Time. Ice and the English Imagination, Lon­don, Faber and Faber, 1996.

Wilson, E.G., The Spiritual History of Ice: Romanticism, Science, and the Ima­gination, New York, Palgrave Macmillan, 2003.

Zerbi, M.C. (a cura di), Turismo sostenibile in ambienti fragili. Problemi e pro­spettive degli spazi rurali, delle alte terre e delle aree estreme, Bologna, Ci­salpino, 1998.




Preliminary paper to the editors: 10th march 2016

Revised (peer-reviewed) paper to the editors: 10th september 2016

Final version from the editors to the publisher: 10th november


Please send a 300-word abstract by 10 november 2015 to both editors:

Nicoletta Brazzelli:

Frédéric Regard:

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