The American Adrenaline Narrative considers the nature of perilous outdoor adventure tales, their gendered biases, and how they simultaneously promote and hinder ecological sustainability. To explore these themes, Kristin J. Jacobson defines and compares adrenaline narratives by a range of American authors published after the first Earth Day in 1970, a timeframe selected as a watershed moment for the contemporary American environmental movement. The forty-plus years since that day also mark the rise in the popularity and marketing of many things as “extreme,” including sports, jobs, travel, beverages, gum, makeovers, laundry detergent, and even the environmental movement itself.
Jacobson maps the American eco-imagination via adrenaline narratives, grounding them in the traditional literary practice of close reading analysis and in ecofeminism. She surveys a range of popular and lesser-known primary texts by American authors, including bestselling books—such as Jon Krakauer’s Into Thin Air and Aron Ralston’s Between a Rock and a Hard Place—and lesser-known texts, such as Patricia C. McCairen’s Canyon Solitude, Eddy L. Harris’s Mississippi Solo, and Stacy Allison’s Beyond the Limits. She also locates these narratives in print and online articles and magazines, feature-length and short films, television shows, amateur videos, social networking sites, fiction, advertising, and blogs.
Jacobson contends that these stories comprise a distinctive genre because—unlike traditional nature, travel, and sports writing—adrenaline narratives sustain heightened risk or the element of the “extreme” within a natural setting. Additionally, these narratives provide important insight into the American environmental imagination’s connection to masculinity and adventure–knowledge that helps us grasp the current climate crisis and how narrative understanding provides a needed intervention.