Academic journal article Liminalities

Topographies of Desire: The Death and Disappearing of Alison Hargreaves

Academic journal article Liminalities

Topographies of Desire: The Death and Disappearing of Alison Hargreaves

Article excerpt

There is always something left over, something as untimely as subjectivity itself, that forms the basis of a new plan, perhaps a new flight.

-Mary Russo, The Female Grotesque: Risk, Excess and Modernity.


This paper is sparked by the death of Alison Hargreaves, a British mountaineer who was swept to her death from the summit of K2 in the summer of 1995. Beginning within the outline of what might be considered absence, this paper considers possibilities of continued presence: the kinetic, sensual and affective di- mensions of (what) remains. Attending to the affective outline left open to us by the disappearance of Hargreaves' material body, I aim to disrupt the continuity of the gendered cultural teleology through which the details of Hargreaves' life, death and disappearance have been inscribed, shifting from the register of the ontological, from the question of pure presence or absence, to the hauntological.1 In so doing, I hope to brace open a space of possibility between the binaries of presence and absence, repetition and singularity, endurance and destruction. It is the aim of this paper to argue that between these classically held binaries exist fields of possibility in which the female body in flight/the figure of the falling female body begins to function both tropologically and as an embodied possibility suggestive of a realm of radical freedom within the everyday, daring to imagine what Mary Russo calls an aerial female sublime.2

Commencing the same way Jacques Derrida opens Archive Fever, with a play on/with citation, this introductory section, this exergue, "consists," as Derrida tells us, "of capitalizing on an ellipsis" (7): a movement that conjures what came before, picking up where the conversation left off and projecting a shared future, the fated end of an encounter whose dimension(s) my writing, here, will seek to shape. This is to say that the exergue frames a particular address, imagines a who who will read, while at the same time marking a repetition, evoking the feeling that (in some un-timely way) this has all happened before; that part of what now burns in the telling, the tropological force of this particular reiteration (both contained within and exceeding the death of the transgressive female figure), burns invisibly beneath the Western imaginary, so natural it appears always to have been there: cinders for all time.

I am informed in this work by Jacques Derrida's monograph Cinders (Its title in French, Feu la Cendre). As Ned Lukacher, Derrida's translator notes, "Derrida is interested in what persists within the "enigma" of mourning, of what still "clings," with what continues to burn and cannot be consumed" (12). It is language itself that burns in the telling of this tale, but it is also the immediacy of a particular figure whose death, a material happening that is personally wounding, woundingly captivating, impels this analysis. Alison Hargreaves, she, the figure whose death I find so affecting, persists in ways that are in turn elusive, fragile, enduring. Although this work centers on the labour of mourning, it turns on the possibility of a poetics of the spirit. "Who would still dare run the risk of a poem of the cinder?" Derrida asks. 3 Who would dare address herself to the smouldering impression of the other in flames-or ice? The answer to this question speaks to the powerfully interpolative, interpellative call of the cinder, that which burns within language-the burning itself-and the heat one feels: she that burns, the remainder within the remainder...the one one wants to write and in so doing to burn also, to remain, like-wise, alight. Beyond all notions of archives and dust, this is all to do with affect, with the place of affect (between the thinking and feeling) and the ontogenetic potential of absence (what we think of as not there): the suspicion that when one finds nothing and finds oneself moved nonetheless, that nothing indicates a place where the smouldering remains of something resides, the "incubation of the fire lurking beneath the dust" (Derrida 43). …

Search by... Author
Show... All Results Primary Sources Peer-reviewed


An unknown error has occurred. Please click the button below to reload the page. If the problem persists, please try again in a little while.