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A cultural history of the human obsession with ice, Eskimos, & polar exploration. When Scott died on his way back from the South Pole, history became a myth embedded in both the public & private imagination. Conventional histories of polar exploration trace the laborious expeditions across the map, but rarely has a writer asked what the explorers thought they were doing, or why they did these seemingly insane things. Spufford reveals a history of feeling buttressed by the call of vast empty spaces & the beauty of untrodden snow, as he pieces together the elements of a myth that still has the power to seduce. Draws on diaries, letters, the works of Bronte, Keats, & others.
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What on earth could inspire so many men--so many British men, in particular--to brave unimaginable cold, hunger, fear, and physical danger in the planet's most remote and forbidding locales? In the case of many polar explorers, writes Francis Spufford, it was a complicated amalgam--English notions of sportsmanship, heroism, and honor mixed with romantic notions of the sublime. In his I May Be Some Time: Ice and the English Imagination, Spufford explores the British obsession with the world's coldest and bleakest climes, using their literary representation as his guide. Although his book gives some historical background about early polar explorations, Spufford concerns himself more with English perceptions of snow and ice than with the snow and ice itself. He considers the writing of Byron, Coleridge, Tennyson, Melville, Mary Shelley, and others, as well as that of the polar explorers themselves, expertly limning how coldness and its metaphors captured the imagination of a generation of Englishmen. Along the way Spufford examines exploration's often unsavory ideological bedfellows, including Victorian views about class, race, and empire.Book Description:
Francis Spufford explores the British obsession with polar exploration in a book that Jan Morris, writing in The Times, called, “A truly majestic work of scholarship, thought and literary imagination...” The title, a last quote from one explorer to his party as he left their tent never to return, embodies the danger and mystery that fueled the romantic allure of the poles and, subsequently, the British imagination. Far from being a conventional history of polar exploration, I May Be Some Time attempts to understand what was going on in the minds of the polar explorers as they headed toward destinies like Terra Nova. Serving up a heady brew of Captain Perry, Jane Eyre, gastronomic obsessions with iced deserts, and the daily lives of the Eskimos, Spufford treats the reader to one of the most satisfying and imaginative contemporary works dealing with exploration and human need.
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