Tourist geographies: Spectatorship, space, and empire in England, 1830--1910

Date of Award


Degree Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)




Linda M. Shires


Empire, England, Mary Kingsley, Thomas Hardy, Tourist, Geographies

Subject Categories

Arts and Humanities | English Language and Literature | Literature in English, British Isles


This dissertation studies tourism as a question of geography as well as image and fantasy. I am concerned with the relationship between tourist subjects, spaces, and images. My three main premises are: that tourists experience places through the consumption of images, that tourism does not depend only on actual travel from place to place but also on the fantasy of travel and being seen in the view, and that tourism and the tourist gaze are forms of imperial power.

In Chapters One and Two, I argue that the tourist gaze became a dominant visual mode and way of seeing for Victorians who travelled but also for sightseers at home in England. Tourist spectatorship was a widespread cultural practice, informing visual experience as well as the experience of space, throughout the period covered in this dissertation. Through an analysis of the Lacanian subject-as-spectacle, Chapter One considers the tourist gaze as a mutually-constitutive relationship between spectators and sights which requires tourists to imagine being seen seeing. Chapter Two advances this argument to consider three areas--panoramas in the 1830s, Cook's tours in mid-century, and the 1851 Great Exhibition--in which spectatorship produced a fantasy of travel and solidified the imperial imagination.

The second part of the dissertation addresses the hybrid nature of a touristic culture and how it transforms the experience of space and subjectivity. Chapter Three argues for understanding the tourist gaze as a form of the imperial gaze and puts Mary Kingsley's account of her travel in West Africa in the context of Victorian ideologies about leisure, public and private spaces, and economic and social spheres. Chapter Four argues that Thomas Hardy's spatial politics in The Return of the Native contests the touristic fantasy of pure difference between city and country, England and elsewhere, the "native" and the "alien." This chapter argues for a hybridity in which middle-class urban ideologies about female desire are transformed in a regional space. Chapter five considers the English country house as the ideological representative of national heritage, serving a tourist industry invested in the image of Englishness.


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