Precarious Ascent: Trace and Terrain in René Daumal's Mount Analogue

McAuliffe, Sam. 2019. Precarious Ascent: Trace and Terrain in René Daumal's Mount Analogue. Modern Language Notes, 134(4), pp. 783-805. ISSN 0026-7910 [Article]

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Abstract or Description

Mount Analogue (1944) is René Daumal’s esoteric contribution to the mountain novel genre and the wider cultural phenomenon of “mountain reverence.” It records the fate of an expedition that has set out to scale the summits of a singular edifice, incomparably high, situated at the crossroads of the real and the imaginary. The topography of this uncharted terrain is paradoxical in the extreme, it subjects whoever tries to climb it to a series of unnerving, haphazard encounters, each of which complicate our classical models of space, action and orientation. For Daumal these paradoxes require nothing less than a new branch of knowledge, to which he gives the name alpinism (the novel is just as much a treatise on this art as a narrative of events). The article reconstructs the guiding principles of this method, their intersection with a series of related theoretical models, from Kant’s sublime to Derrida’s trace, as well as the specific aesthetic contexts across which Daumal’s euphoric engagement with the mountain is affirmed.

Item Type:


Identification Number (DOI):


René Daumal, Alpinism, Pataphysics, Trace, Derrida, Kant

Departments, Centres and Research Units:

Visual Cultures


19 December 2019Published
27 September 2019Accepted

Item ID:


Date Deposited:

07 Jan 2020 12:59

Last Modified:

09 Jun 2021 13:10

Peer Reviewed:

Yes, this version has been peer-reviewed.


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