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Scott's Last Biscuit By Sarah Moss

Scott's Last Biscuit

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A history of polar exploration and the literature, factual and imaginative, which it has generated.

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Scott's Last Biscuit Summary

Scott's Last Biscuit: The Literature of Polar Exploration by Sarah Moss

Arctic and Antarctic travel writing has seized the popular imagination for the last three hundred years. Emphasizing themes of endurance, danger and self-sacrifice, tales from the poles are testimony both to human curiosity and to the often fatal attraction of alien landscapes. Figures such as Ernest Shackleton, Captain Oates and Roald Amundsen have become iconic figures in the history of exploration. Yet polar exploration has also spawned a literature with its own history and development. This book discusses the most influential and popular accounts of polar journeys, from the fourteenth-century tax collector who arrived at the Viking settlement in Greenland to find that the inhabitants had mysteriously disappeared, to Captain Robert Falcon Scott's meticulous account of his own dying. Sarah Moss offers literary readings of books by Nansen, Scott, Franklin and Parry as well as bringing to light less famous but equally important works by other explorers, missionaries and archaeologists from Europe and North America. Thematically arranged, Scott's Last Biscuit considers the morbid fascination of expeditions that go horribly wrong and the even greater interest attached to those that are rescued at the last minute. Looking at risks ranging from frostbite and polar bears to starvation and cannibalism, it also analyses the enduring appeal of romanticized polar landscapes, the relationship between national identity and planting flags in the ice, and literary approaches to polar travel from Winnie the Pooh to Frankenstein. Considering the little-charted role of women in polar history, Sarah Moss discusses Jenny Darlington's unjustly neglected American 1950s autobiography, My Antarctic Honeymoon ("for protection against the polar winds I applied lipstick"), Letitia Hargraves' moving and likeable journal of life as the wife of a Hudson's Bay Company factor in the early nineteenth century, and Isobel Hutchison's solitary travels around Greenland in the 1930s as a botanist for Kew Gardens.

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Scott's Last Biscuit Reviews

Sarah Moss has written a compelling account of the hold which polar exploration has had over the imagination. She gives vignettes of a number of different expeditions, and, whilst most of these date from the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, her historical range takes us back to the fourteenth century, and forward to the ecological challenges of our own time. What interests her in particular is what it means to write, and to read, of polar exploration: what it means for writing to become a psychological necessity against a void - and why people should wish to read of men struggling to express themselves under desperate circumstances. She has a particularly keen eye for the telling detail, and understands the importance of strong narratives: in other words, she gives a very vivid picture of what life was like in a polar ship or in a tent, or trekking across frozen wastes: we know what it. This is a book about claustrophobia and intolerance; about the strains that are put on personal relationships; about filling empty time; about finding reassurance, comfort and pleasure in grim surroundings. It is, above all, a book which examines ideals of masculinity, as they were formed in the nineteenth century, and as we see them come under almost unbearable stress. The triumph of Sarah Moss's book is that it returns our attention to the physical and mental experience of attempting to reach the poles. Rather than being absorbed by the aesthetic, this is a book about humans under extreme conditions, and is extremely revelatory not just about their individualized responses - ranging from stoic cheerfulness to selfishness, derangement, and despair - but about the way in which these responses are revelatory of the cultures which formed them. The book is a vivid study of what it is to be very, very cold - and to see one's companions, and potentially oneself, die as a result of exposure to some of the world's most uninhabitable terrain. It is an examination of those who both seek, and who seek to express, forms of suffering which they have voluntarily chosen for themselves. - Kate Flint, Rutgers University

About Sarah Moss

SARAH MOSS is a lecturer in English at the University of Kent and has recently completed a PhD on English Romanticism and polar travel writing.

Table of Contents

INTRODUCTION; A BRIEF HISTORY OF POLAR EXPLORATION; Heading North; Explorers and Survivors; The Far South; In Search of the North-West Passage; Catastrophe in Canada; Stuck in the Ice; Imperial Ambitions; "Scandinavian Ascendancy"; Race to the Poles; Shackleton's Expedition; Writing on Ice; PART ONE; MAKING A HOME; I; Medieval Norse Sagas and the Pagan Prophetess; II; Full of Fruit: Hans Egede's Greenland; III; Secret Runes: Searching for the Colonists 1800-2000; PART TWO; THE LONG DARK NIGHT; IV; Sir William Edward Parry: "The Utmost Regularity and Good Order"; Our New Acquaintance; V; Comforts and Good Cheer: Nansen Goes North; A Happy Ship; Nothing to Write About; VI; "I Dread Getting Up": Richard Byrd Alone in the Antarctic; "Great Waves of Fear"; PART THREE; THE BITTER END; VII; They are an Epic: Robert Falcon Scott and the South Pole; A Wearisome Return; "The Poor Soldier Has Become a Terrible Hindrance"; "We Will Not at This Moment Raise the Question"; VIII; Ballooning to the North Pole: The Andree Expedition; Raw Brain and Algae Soup; IX; Eating Each Other: Adolphus Greely's Three Years of Arctic Service; "A Stern and Frightful Reality"; PART FOUR; VISITING THE DEAD; X; "A Fate as Terrible as the Imagination Can Conceive": Sir John Franklin's Last Expedition; "A Mere Accumulation of Dead Weight"; XI; Interrupting His Cold Sleep: John Torrington; "A Curious and Solemn Scene"; XII; Arctic Arsenic: Charles Francis Hall and the Search for Franklin; Death on the Polaris; PART FIVE; WOMEN AT THE POLES; XIII; Babies in Hudson's Bay: The Letters of Letitia Hargrave; XIV; My Antarctic Honeymoon: Jennie Darlington in Antarctica; A Dog's Life; XV; Arctic Nurse: Mills and Boon Go North; XVI; The Fairyland of the Arctic: Isobel Wylie Hutchison in Greenland; PART SIX; ENGLISH LITERATURE ON ICE; XVII; The Loud Misrule: Arctic Imagery in English Poetry; Melting the Ice: John Donne and James Thomson at the North Pole; Hell Freezes Over: Frankenstein and the Albatross; XVIII; Dicsovered by Pooh: Children's Fiction Goes to the Poles; Parodying the Poles: The Snark and Pooh take on Franklin and Scott; Ice Maidens and Snow Queens; EPILOGUE; THE END OF THE ROAD; FURTHER READING

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Scott's Last Biscuit: The Literature of Polar Exploration by Sarah Moss
Sarah Moss
Used - Very Good
Signal Books Ltd
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