Caroline Schaumann, Associate Professor, German Studies, Emory University
From European Sublime to American Swashbuckler: Clarence King’s exploration of the Sierra Nevada
This paper explores the impact of Alexander von Humboldt and other European scientists on the North American explorer Clarence King to examine King’s representation of his adventures in the American West. King’s own narrative of his travels, published in 1872 as Mountaineering in the Sierra Nevada, made the range known and palatable to the nation. Considered mainly from a historical perspective, some scholars continue to read this text as a chronological account of the events that happened, while others doubt its historical validity, pointing to the author’s generous liberties and aberrations. Thus far, the book has received little attention as a literary text per se, even though its style reflects a highly original American-European convergence by introducing an imaginative and captivating mountaineering discourse to an educated East Coast audience.