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Topographic Memory and Victorian Travellers in the Dolomite Mountains: Peaks of Venice
by William Bainbridge
Amsterdam University Press, 2020
eISBN: 978-90-485-3931-4

Guided by the romantic compass of Turner, Byron, and Ruskin, Victorian travellers to the Dolomites sketched in the mountainous backdrop of Venice a cultural ‘Petit Tour’ of global significance. As they zigzagged across a debatable land between Italy and Austria, Victorians discovered a unique geography characterized by untrodden peaks and unfrequented valleys. The discovery of this landscape blended aesthetic, scientific, and cultural values utterly different from those engendered by the bombastic conquests of the Western Alps achieved during the ‘Golden Age of Mountaineering’. Filtered through memories of the Venetian Grand Tour, the Victorian encounter with the Dolomites is revealed through a series of distinct cultural practices that paradigmatically define a ‘Silver Age of Mountaineering’. This book shows how these practices are more ethnographic than imperialistic, more feminine than masculine, more artistic than sportive — rather than racing to summits, the Silver Age is about rambling, rather than conquering peaks, it is about sketching them in an intimate interaction with the Dolomite landscape.

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