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Debatable Peaks and Contested Valleys: Englishness and the Dolomite Landscape Scenery


  • William Bainbridge


The toponym “Dolomites” qualifies a mountainous region in the north-east of Italy, located at the cultural and political frontier with Austria. They represent a unique borderland marked by competing ethnic and cultural divides, which are subtly obscured by their inclusion onto the World Heritage List (2009) and by the role they play within a globalized heritage of natural sites. It is the external voice of the first English travelers to the region during the 19th century that UNESCO has identified as central in initiating the promotion of the Dolomites’ status as geologically and aesthetically unique. Travelers to the Dolomites first appropriated the “bizarre” shapes of their mountain forms by attaching them to an utterly English gaze reflecting a particular “way of seeing” a landscape. In their “invention” of the Dolomites, Victorians elevated their peaks to a sublime abstraction of aesthetic “space,” while reducing their valleys to a cultural “place” in which life was enacted picturesquely. In charting this history, this paper asks how, why and to what extent this foreign voice contributed to overshadow the historically contested narratives of this region by transforming it into a “neutral” set of aestheticized English landscape symbols.

Suggested Citation

  • William Bainbridge, 2016. "Debatable Peaks and Contested Valleys: Englishness and the Dolomite Landscape Scenery," Journal of Borderlands Studies, Taylor & Francis Journals, vol. 31(1), pages 39-58, January.
  • Handle: RePEc:taf:rjbsxx:v:31:y:2016:i:1:p:39-58
    DOI: 10.1080/08865655.2015.1115734

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