Virtual Travels and the Tourist Gaze

Jeffrey Geiger

in American Documentary Film

Published by Edinburgh University Press

Published in print June 2011 | ISBN: 9780748621477
Published online September 2012 | e-ISBN: 9780748670796 | DOI:
Virtual Travels and the Tourist Gaze

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Chapter 2 expands on the idea of the Chicago Exposition as ‘the cheapest and most exhaustive journey over the earth that was ever made’, reflecting on cinema's capacity to serve as a vehicle for mobility, travel, and tourism. Associations between cinema and travel were widespread: actualities and travelogues revealed far away sights to Americans at home, while the sensation of travel was incorporated into film technology itself. This chapter examines how modes of entertainment ranging from illustrated lectures to phantom rides were foundational to later documentary approaches. These forms of virtual travel, ‘possessing the world’ in images, also fed into national and imperial consciousness. Establishing a spectatorial relationship to sights and scenes ‘over there’, these films helped to define a sense of ‘us’ and ‘here’. The chapter includes a close reading of Nanook of the North.

Keywords: travelogue; virtual travel; body genres; illustrated lectures; Robert Flaherty; Nanook of the North; expeditionary films

Chapter.  10682 words.  Illustrated.

Subjects: Film

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