Running Wilde

Landscape, the Body, and the History of the Treadmill

in Critical Survey
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  • 1 University of Kent v.cregan-reid@kent.ac.uk
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How have exercise, the body, and modes of imprisonment become so imbricated in modern societies? The treadmill started its life as the harshest form of punishment that could be meted out, short of the death penalty. It remained so for two centuries. Today, we pay membership fees equivalent to a household energy bill for the dubious privilege of being permitted to run on them. The treadmill is a high-functioning symbol of our anthropocene life that chooses to engage with self-created realities that knowingly deny our creaturely existence.

This essay aims to bring a number of genres and disciplines into conversation with one another to effect a mode of reflective but insightful cultural analysis. Through this ecological interdependence of genre, (including history, philosophy, literary analysis, sociology, psychogeography, autobiography, and biography) the essay aims to look at the ways in which our condition in modernity conspires against our psychological, physiological, geographical, and personal freedoms. Using Oscar Wilde's experiences of life on the treadmill, some of Hardy's poetry, Simone Weil, Pater, Foucault, Lacan, Sartre, Althusser, and Lukács, the essay draws attention to the ways that inauthenticity and dehumanisation have become the mainstay of life in the modern gym.

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