Dr. Andrew Wood
Office: HGH 210; phone: (408) 924-5378
Email: wooda@email.sjsu.edu
Web: http://www.sjsu.edu/faculty/wooda

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Movement and national identity: Vacations as ways of seeing

Readings: Bryson and Löfgren

Supplemental Reading: Sontag

Note: Supplemental readings are generally not found in your packet. These summaries are placed online as an invitation for you to expand your research.

During this week, we explore the foundations of the course with a series of essays from Bill Bryson, a humorist whose prose frequently reveals significant truths about tourist culture. Bryson approaches these essays as an American who'd lived in England for 20 years and, upon his return, rediscovered his native land with new eyes. Many of the themes which animate this collection - the sedentary and homogenized nature of contemporary life, along with the blurring of public and private spaces - will appear throughout this course.

We then explore the American age of mobility as a new way of seeing the nation. This calls for new technologies of seeing, new languages of description - particularly when we seek to imagine ideal experiences. Therefore, we turn to Orvar Löfgren who examines the modern search for the sublime. Intriguingly, he notes, the introduction of new modes of transportation and conveyance (such as the locomotive and the camera) reduces the power of the sublime, transforming it to the merely picturesque. This, in turn, mandates the search for ever more saturated experience in the form of pseudo-places. To explore a key technology which helps construct these pseudo-places, you might also consult Sontag's essay on photography.


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