A place "rendered interesting": antebellum print culture and the rise of middle-class tourism
MetadataShow full item record
“A Place ‘Rendered Interesting’: Antebellum Print Culture and the Rise of Middle-Class Tourism” analyzes the frequently overlooked ideological dimensions of antebellum print culture related to tourism. Traveling through the American leisure landscape became a primary means by which writers, poets, artists, and everyday sightseers explored and defined their worlds. Through tourism, authors expressed some of their deepest anxieties about the society they inhabited. Tourism texts are therefore deceptively powerful cultural artifacts; in fact, sometimes their codified and even repetitive nature was a means of emphasizing an author or authors’ deepest fears. In my dissertation, I analyze guidebooks, travelogues, periodicals, gift books, children’s literature, novels, and visual culture to reveal how authors and artists used potentially escapist discourses of leisure travel to engage with the most pressing problems of the antebellum moment. My examination of touristic print culture shows that this archive, long dismissed as superficial, was in fact central to the consolidation of white middle class identity, to the emergence of manifest destiny, and to ongoing debates over of the rise of commercialism and abolition. Chapter one explores how antebellum guidebooks address ideologies of progress and empire. I examine Catskill guidebook authors’ uses of literary sources, particularly short stories by Washington Irving. These authors quoted and cited Irving’s stories to create a white mythology for the Catskills that marginalized non-white people and encouraged their removal. Chapter two situates tourism within the broader context of antebellum class identity. I argue that authors like Catherine Maria Sedgwick and Nathaniel Parker Willis employ tourism discourse to articulate concerns about the threat of upwardly mobile lower classes and their potential impact on supposed middle-class morality. Chapter three frames the tension between Romanticism and capitalism inherent in touristic culture. Nathaniel Hawthorne’s sketches and stories of the White Mountains, I argue, can help us understand the emergent antebellum problem of the commodified landscape. In Chapter four, I argue that tourism became a space for heated political debate on slavery. Abolitionists like Lydia Maria Child encouraged readers to consider the possibility of reorganized society – specifically, a society without slaves – through the imaginative possibilities of the cave aesthetic.
RightsAttribution 4.0 International