Tropes of Ascesis and Ascent in Polar Expeditions from Verne to Amundsen

  • Lucia Claudia Fiorella


What we know of polar expeditions coincides with a number of fictional and non fictional representations using different registers: the iconic-technical-scientific, the auto/biographical, the literary/fictional. This paper draws a comparison between texts featuring contrasting views on the character and purposes of polar expeditions, their supposed usefulness and political consequences, and the certification procedures of scientific knowledge, reflecting broader concerns about the idea of progress, the man/environment relation, and international relations.

Fictional and non fictional texts are involved in this ideological confrontation in varying degrees of urgency. However, one cannot fail to note ongoing competition between the two, if only for the fact that the explorers’ accounts take pains to produce hallmarks of authenticity, veridicality and reliability in order not to be mixed up with fiction; on the other hand, fiction makes use of mimetic strategies achieving an amazing effect of realism.

The contributor offers a thematic reading of ascent-related tropes, focusing on Jules Verne’s Captain Hatteras (1866) as an example of critical optimism in contrast with the apocalyptic Purple Cloud (1901) by M.P. Shiel, as well as with R.E. Amundsen’s My Polar Flight (1925) – which features an optimism that has lost its Promethean overtones and comes closer to the elation for a sporting achievement.


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Author Biography

Lucia Claudia Fiorella
Lucia Claudia Fiorella has earned a doctorate in Anglo-American Literature from the University of Florence (Italy) where she has also taught English Literature as a fixed-term lecturer. She has published the first Italian full-length study on J.M. Coetzee (Figure del Male nella narrativa di J.M. Coetzee, ETS, 2006) and has contributed eight substantial entries to the Dizionario dei Temi Letterari (UTET, 2007). She has dealt with a few epistemological issues in life writing, the critique of religious enthusiasm in the age of Enlightenment, Wilkie Collins’s long and short fiction; she is presently working on fictional and documentary accounts of polar expeditions at the turn of the twentieth century.


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How to Cite
Fiorella, L. C. (2011). Tropes of Ascesis and Ascent in Polar Expeditions from Verne to Amundsen. Between, 1(1).
Myths and Themes of Crossing Over