Urban tourism, 1851-53: sightseeing, representation and the Stones of Venice
AuthorBurns, Karen Lisa
AffiliationSchool of Fine Arts, Classical Studies and Archaeology
Document TypePhD thesis
CitationsBurns, K. L. (1999). Urban tourism, 1851-53: sightseeing, representation and the Stones of Venice. PhD thesis, School of Fine Arts, Classical Studies and Archaeology, The University of Melbourne.
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© 1999 Dr. Karen Lisa Burns
When John Ruskin journeyed to Venice in November 1849 to begin work on the project culminating in The Stones of Venice(l8S1-S3), tourism was already a recognisable discourse: a network of terms, texts, objects and practices. In the 1840s the figure of the tourist had been publicly satirised by the English writer Charles Dickens and by the periodical press. The tourist/traveller binary had been formed and this hierarchy continued to dOll1inate discussions of travel well into the 1980s. Ruskin's text was addressed to the traveller, but its use by tourists and its role in consolidating Venice as a sign and set of practices in English tourist discourse was denigrated by Ruskin in his later life, and the text's place in tourist practice was subsequently disavowed by some Ruskin scholars. Tourist studies have identified the mid and late nineteenth century as the birth moment of modern tourism. Ruskin's text, published in the early 1850s, offers an occasion to reassess the relationship between the book and tourist practice, and to investigate existing theories of tourism's origin, timing, conceptual and empirical effect. This thesis seeks to investigate the continuities and discontinuities between Ruskin's text and earlier and emergent tourist genres and media. It focuses on spatial and visual practices, areas somewhat under-represented in the existing field of research which is overwhelmingly literary and textual; attendant to the what of meaning rather than the how of signification. Some of these visual and spatial genres were well established at the time of Ruskin's research - the guidebook and lighting practices at tourist sites - but were undergoing transformation. Images of travel circulated widely in the nineteenth century through existing forms - notably books, prints, the diorama and panorama - and emergent forms such as photography. The thesis analyses Ruskin's relation to these media, and the larger historical narratives claiming that visual and transport technologies transformed conditions and practices of tourist spectatorship. Investigating the tourist event, this thesis seeks to draw more careful distinctions between representations of travel sights, the practices enacted by the tourist on site, and in the stabilisation of tourist memory after the event. The sightseeing event as a moment of subject formation is also analysed. Framing Ruskin's text within tourist discourse alters his established place in the terrain of cultural modernity, and indeed may change that term's pantheon of spokespeople, meanings, reach and location. This thesis argues that the tourist practices associated with Ruskin's text - the viewing and inhabiting of history through textual, spatial and visual representation - engaged issues of technology, signification, history and modernity. Although cultural modernity has generally been discovered in the metropolis, Ruskin's work used tourism, and a regional, nonmetropolitan place as a space for sorting out arguments about modernity: its effects and subject formations. The thesis suggests that studies of tourist practice and nonmetropolitan locations may reframe understandings of nineteenth-century modernity.
KeywordsJohn Ruskin (1819-1900); Stones of Venice; political and social views; tourism in Venice; modern architecture; 19th century architecture; aesthetics.
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