02 Pleasure Gardens, Popular Recreation

Please post your response as a “comment” for this post, and submit it by February 7, 4 pm. It will be based on the following readings:

Hamadeh, Shrine. “Public Spaces and Public Order.” In The City’s Pleasures: Istanbul in the Eighteenth Century, 110-138. Washington: University of Washington, 2007.

Harwood, Edward. “Rhetoric, Authenticity, and Reception: The Eighteenth-Century Landscape Garden, the Modern Theme Park, and Their Audiences.” In Theme Park Landscapes: Antecedents and Variations, edited by Terence Young, Robert B. Riley and Dumbarton Oaks., 49-68. Washington, D.C.: Dumbarton Oaks Research Library and Collection, 2002.

Allen, Brian. “The Landscape.” In Vauxhall Gardens, edited by T. J. Edelstein, 17-24. New Haven, Conn.: Yale Center for British Art, 1983.

Schenker, Heath. “Pleasure Gardens, Theme Parks, and the Picturesque.” In Theme Park Landscapes: Antecedents and Variations, edited by Terence Young, Robert B. Riley and Dumbarton Oaks., 69-89. Washington, D.C.: Dumbarton Oaks Research Library and Collection, 2002.

There may be many references in these readings to people and place names you are not familiar with. Do not dwell on them, and try instead to focus on the main arguments about publicness, socialization, and pleasure. Please note that a response is not a summary of the assigned readings, but your critical evaluation of them.

15 responses to “02 Pleasure Gardens, Popular Recreation

  1. Dear All, Please post your reading responses here. Ipek

  2. Samantha Clark

    These reading focus on the relationship between gardens and amusement parks and through these relationships, they each explore the themes of publicness, socialization and pleasure.
    Gardens offered those in society a place to see and be seen – they highlighted a sense of social class. Going to a garden required leisure time – a luxury to those in the working and lower classes. Thus gardens with a picturesque naturalistic quality became places where elite classes spent time. This type of garden appealed to the upper class while pleasure gardens appealed to the lower and working classes. The pleasure gardens offered theme-park-like things such as concession stands and elaborate decorations and planning. These gardens did not offer a quiet place of retreat like the gardens following the trend of picturesque naturalism – they offered exoticism and escape from the natural and everyday world. Class seems to continue to play a role in today’s theme parks. I found it very intriguing how one reason Disney theme parks decided to charge money was to attract a high social class to their venue. Perhaps they did not wish to be associated with the boisterous behavior seen at many of the pleasure gardens often attributed to those from a low class.
    The public aspect of theme parks and gardens makes them mirrors of the society that they are in. The public – well the dominating social class (as the elite did in shaping Central Park in New York City) – shapes the general nature of the public space. The public then inhabits the space in such a way that they reflect their own values. Gardens pushed the sense of boundaries between the elite and non-elite and pushed this debate into the foreground and into the public eye.
    The idea of natural versus un-natural and what that means is also very interesting to me. The more ordered and man-made venues seem to offer a more commercialized and public feeling whereas the venues made to seem natural offer a more secluded and private feeling while still being very public. People perhaps act differently based on these constraints – maybe there is a greater sense of responsibility in the more natural venues because destroying nature or acting badly within nature seems to have a more negative stigma than acting badly within a man-made space.

  3. In reading these articles, I also thought about Central Park — another controlled natural environment evoking similar issues about the relationship between the natural world, social order, and public space. I think it’s interesting how these “natural” worlds became so heavily invested with ideas of taste, culture, and social class. And not only that, the creation and regulation of these public spaces became a means of maintaining order in times of instability — as evidenced by the enlarged moral role of the gardener in Turkish parks and the importance of “maintaining visible marks of distinction” (131) through both legal and sartorial codes. I think it’s interesting in these contexts — the Turkish parks, Central Park, Disney World, and English landscape gardens — how the aesthetic becomes a regulatory device as part of a larger system of symbolic order. If, as anthropologist Arjun Appadurai has noted, “work of the imagination [is] constitutive feature of modern subjectivity” then it’s useful to think about how meanings of identity and place are fixed — especially in times of change — through the production of affect and aesthetic manipulation.

  4. As I read the articles, I couldn’t help but compare the concept of pleasure gardens to the few “gardens” I am familiar with, which is, The Huntington Library in San Rafael Hills, California, the Smithsonian Museum area in Washington DC, and the California Missions. The Huntington Library was initially the residency and art/book collection villa of Henry E. Huntington, a famous railroad magnate, but is now a public garden/museum visitable to anyone who pays an entrance fee. A great collector of the arts, rare books, and plants, The Huntington Library has a vast array of themed gardens: Cactus, Austrailian, Japanese, Chinese, Desert, Jungle, Herb, Shakespeare, Rose, Palm, Tropical and Sub-Tropical. Though the Smithsonian Museum is not a “garden”, I felt the area surrounding it could be considered a pleasure garden-esk location. The Sculpture Garden located next to the Natural History Museum is a distinguished hangout/gathering spot for the masses, with live music, a central fountain, and alcoholic beverages. Also the massive green that stretches between the many museums, is definitely a favored communal gathering ground. Lastly, the California Missions, which is also open to the public (but again with a small entrance fee), are well preserved historic spaces filled with historic architecture, educational displays, and a flower garden.
    The fact that all three locations make some connection with education/academia, may tend to associate it more with the pleasure garden forms that catered toward the upper class in the late 18th century. But it is still true that all three locations attract massive crowds of people from all ranks in society. Though keeping in mind the huge generational differences of modern day vs 18th/19th century, it is interesting how it seems here we have a stable mix between the two extreme garden forms that existed back then. This is both a space to celebrate with friends and family, as well as a place to quietly reflect upon knowledge and nature. Perhaps because of the greatly changed mentality of the strict social stratifications, these forms of “gardens” can exist in the present day. But has our mentalities changed that much? Also, does this mean, education and knowledge is becoming more accessible and acceptable to the masses?

  5. I enjoyed Harwood’s drawing out of common threads between contemporary theme parks and mid 18th and 19th century pleasure gardens. He suggests that theme parks are not as class-based as the gardens were, citing the Disney Corporations attempts to appeal to modern-day wealthy heroes, such as football stars, and their promise to provide an experience for every pocketbook. Harwood points out the elite nature of pleasure gardens, which assumed both wealth and leisure.
    I think, however, that the dichotomy is less stark than that. Disneyland is still quite class based—as Harwood himself points out that it is intended to appeal to a middle class segment of the US. Their introduction of entrance fees keeps out lower social strata (Harwood 59), while their use of controlled, imagined landscapes is not targeted at the elite. Conversely, English pleasure gardens were less dominated by the elite than Harwood suggests. Schenker discusses how gardens such as Vauxhall began to cater to an emerging working class (73). In fact, the wealthier members of society began to abandon pleasure gardens, despite attempts made to hold their business, due to a pervading sense that they had become “vulgar” (81). As the parks became more democratic in their inclusion of lower classes, the upper classes began to abandon them.
    A second point I found interesting was the use of “exotic eclecticism” (Allen 19) pervasive in both modern theme parks and pleasure gardens. Gardens such as Vauxhall and Ranelagh were full of references to other times and places, with Chinese pavilions, colonnades and piazzas, and Italian Walks. Disneyland likewise, has the Epcot center, with its multicultural theme. Both attempt to tap into collective memories of the imagined—most visitors to either garden or park would have any direct experience with these faraway lands. The references are used to induce different effects, however. Disneyland wants to create a rosy, nostalgic, imaginative yet controlled view of the past or the other. Vauxhall or Ranelagh, meanwhile, sought more to associate themselves in the present with elite markers of history, to spark the imaginations of their guests by creating continuity between themselves and a glorious past. Harwood writes that Disney has become a sort of guarantor of national values, distilling some form of American values into a controlled environment. I wonder whether pleasure garden owners likewise wanted to preserve an idealized view of their social present through their historical references.

  6. As Harwood points out, the Disney experience is so pervasive in contemporary American culture that an analogy between its theme parks and another landscaped artifact — in this case the Stourhead estate — is accessible. And I’m wondering if this is lamentable given that there are, I think, not many touchstones upon which a fragmented society such as the US’s is situated (I’m oversimplying for the sake of brevity as singular “society” conceals this country’s plurality). In particular, I want to consider theme parks, like the Disneylands of the world, as educational environments. Growing up in Southern California, I learned a lot from going to Disneyland: about national costumes (It’s a Small World), gravity (some cinematic experience involving Michael Jackson), and public decorum (waiting in line, outside, under the summer sun), among other less salient lessons. In short, a visit was a comprehensive experience and, as has been mentioned in their comments, closed to the lower socioeconomic strata. We definitely paid a privilege for our experience. So, it seems that one of the main controversies is based on the question of who profits from such pleasures? Profit is defined loosely here as an outcome that benefits certain parties. Hamadeh wrote about the central contradiction in Turkey’s promenades and public gardens — that is, “public” spaces were made available to the masses in part to contain social disorder. Both the ruling elite and wide spectrum of citizens benefited to a degree, though the latter being subjected to surveillance and sumptuary laws certainly could be considered a “cost” for their state-sanctioned favors. I would agree with Hamadeh that despite the lack of freedom as we know it, public gardens diminished social and cultural distances between groups. At the same time, however, I would argue that socializing in these spaces and being able to peer upon the imperial palaces represented a compromise: visual rather than material reconciliation. To play on Lucy Lippard’s words, poverty is a wonderful catalyst for popular discontent. Theme parks and public and commercial gardens deliver a small dose of experiences visitors otherwise wouldn’t have access to. They constitute, in a way, a temporary salve for deficits that have been communicated through difference.

  7. Anish Gonchigar

    This week’s readings seek to present pleasure gardens and landscape gardens of the 18th and 19th centuries as the natural predecessors of today’s theme parks, namely Disneyland. While this comparison seems appropriate—both mediums were unabashedly eclectic gatherings displays and amusements—I believe that Disneyland established a new paradigm altogether. Gardens were initially established as social spaces for the elites: indeed, some actually originated as imperial gardens. Disneyland never sought to be an exclusive experience (I do not believe that the entrance fees are meant to discriminate by class, but rather because the theme park is fundamentally a money-making operation). Instead, Disneyland attempts to create its own, alternate world. With Disneyworld, the company managed to create a self-sufficient nation from which an individual could theoretically never leave (I would be interested to see how long anyone has actually done this). Employees are taught to cater to this idea, and disturbances in the culture, such as Banksy’s Abu Ghraib prisoner mannekin, are quickly dispelled.
    What I found particularly interesting about the articles was their claims about the dissemination of class values. As the articles claim, pleasure gardens began as the pinnacle of cosmopolitan ideals, until they were embraced by the rest of society and eventually fell into decay. This begs the question: is there a consistent standard for ‘highbrow’, or is it more of a temporal marker of what is considered tasteful? Is there anything that remains tasteful over generations, and if so, what distinguishes it? In addition, do we sometimes see a reversal of this process—do staples of ‘lower-class culture’ ever become elevated to ‘high class’, and when does this happen?

  8. Becca Mayersohn

    Something that interested me about these readings was the intersection of class issues with the ever-changing public gardens. These class issues appeared in every example cited by the authors. In the Turkish imperial gardens, these palatial spaces often were made public as a way for the elite to have more control over the way that lower classes socialized. By allowing the public into spaces previously reserved for the royal and upper-class, those in charge could effectively supervise the general public and the way they conducted themselves. In other words, as Hamedeh argues, “the role of the state elite in the evolution of public spaces was… an attempt by the state to contain public life” (125). I found it fascinating that the “gardeners” were given so much power; they could actually inflict physical punishment if they deemed someone’s actions to be conflicting with the atmosphere of the gardens. From first glance, it would appear that the act of creating public gardens gives freedom, but in reality, it limits people’s actions. Class also came up in Schenker’s analysis of Central Park: the people responsible for designing Central Park followed the wishes of the higher classes by creating a space appearing more “natural” than the traditional pleasure gardens of the 18th and 19th centuries. The designers didn’t want to cater to lower class sensibilities; rather, they hoped the park would raise the worker and lower class citizen to the sensibilities of the elite. I found it fascinating that a garden or a park could hold so much meaning in the world of class conflict.
    What interested me the most, however, in these essays, was the question of theme parks and gardens as an “escape” from reality. Harwood calls the Stourhead gardens “theatrically contrived settings” (51), and refers to Disney World and Colonial Williamsburg as “catering to our imaginations, our need to escape” (60). In my experience, these descriptions are entirely accurate; when I go to Disney World, it is to escape from everyday life, to go to a place entirely different from the world I experience from day to day. Harwood, however, brings up the question of whether themed environments are more “real” than the outside world. This is brought up in Walt Disney’s claim that Disneyland is more real than the prejudice-ridden land outside its gates. Harwood claims that we should not “designate… landscape gardens as escapist because they are not there primarily to remove us from the present to a better past; they are there to assert connections and continuities across time” (62). I do see Harwood’s argument; by removing the atmosphere of modern everyday life, and attempting to portray a picturesque past, theme parks and gardens can make us feel connected to humanity in a timeless sense. I do think, however, that for most people, the main purpose of visiting a theme park or garden is simply to forget today’s troubles, and focus on a world that does not resemble our own.

  9. In her piece on Ottoman gardens, Hamadeh raises some seemingly contradictory observations concerning how the state elite evolved relationships in how it “monitored, hampered, encouraged, sanctioned, and contained [modern life] all at once.” (Hamadeh 113) State actions to promote these gardens as arenas for public use could be cast in light of elite disapproval of the increasing popularity of the coffeehouse, or perhaps more dramatically, enforcement of dress codes could mean execution. An interesting aspect of these perhaps paradoxical results is how the popular use of these gardens coincided with the need for the state elite to crack down on violations in the dress code. I read this to mean that an ever-broadening pool to which these public gardens became available was eagerly trying to assert the tastes of higher classes. The prevalence of French fashion and its subsequent repression gives a pretty good concrete description of this process: the state provides an initial public forum (and a luxurious one, worthy of elite taste) for exhibition of class; “limits of the normative sphere of urban life were constantly negotiated and new forms and channels of sociability were nurtured” (Hamadeh 138); and then reaction against the democratization of taste. The prevalence and popularity of artwork that displays the conspicuous consumption and luxury of the Ottoman pleasure garden makes a case for the importance of this display. But the rigor of this process of reaction against advances on upper-class taste confirms really does fit well with the seemingly contradictory growth and contraction of certain freedoms and luxuries of modern life, and hints at the struggle that the Ottoman state (just as the British state) had to keep its citizens happy.

  10. On reading these articles, I was interested in gauging the relationship between the various factors ascribed to the life of these public gardens and theme parks and the quality (as in qualitative property, not a value judgement) of the interaction afforded to their attendees. It seems to me that the primary attractions/interactions of these parks occupy different spaces on a spectrum between interpersonal interaction and something more like the interaction between person and environment. I’ve identified different points in this space:
    First, the public gardens in eighteenth-century Istanbul as discussed by Hamadeh were clearly social venues. A major draw for tourists and locals alike was the atmosphere of leisure as generated by the crowd in their social engagements (quotes from primary sources on p.111). These places existed as much as a forum as a diversion. Their rise seemed to have been politically motivated in general, sometimes quite specifically and directly (the repeating pattern of court gardens that fell into disuse and decay, to be taken up by the “city’s riffraff” having to be taken back into control (Hamadeh 115)). If the circumscription and surveillance of the developing urban culture was a goal of making public these gardens, then the fact that their atmosphere was a primarily social one makes sense. Indeed Hamadeh describes a “noncourtly culture of sociability” (133).
    To describe the other end of the spectrum, let me first appeal to fragment of the video that we saw last week in class, a satirical commercial for a fictional theme park. In a sense, this place can be thought of as the logical extrapolation or exaggeration of our notion of contemporary theme parks. Where does the social fit in to this place? We notice that all the passersby stopped and questioned are lone travellers who have presumably taken this resort vacation by themselves. More importantly, though, the descriptions that they give of their experiences leave little room for other vacationers (after all, people other than the permanent resort robots would break the illusion of the theme). In fact, trying to work out the logistics of the resort such that everyone could have their own personal, immersive experience is kind of mind-boggling. Now I’m not trying to use this as concrete or historical evidence, but taken as evidence of an attitude, you can see what I mean when I suggest that in no way is the appeal of Disney World or the contemporary theme park social in the same way as the public gardens of eighteenth century Istanbul. The appeal, the enjoyment of the experience, comes entirely from the visitors interaction with the constructed environment.
    So we have, on the one hand an example of public leisure space with a politically motivated creation and social appeal, and on the other a more purely economically motivated one with an appeal centered on the constructed environment itself (is that fair?). Where does this shift (I am being reductively linear) occur? Are there sites that lie in the middle? The pleasure gardens of Europe? Schenker asks, at the end of her article, “Which was the more powerful force in twentieth-century American society? Disney-Time-Warner of the Central Park Conservancy?” (Schenker 89) To be perfectly honest, I’m not entirely sure what is wrapped up in each of these forces- is it a populism vs. exclusivity thing? Is Central Park considered (beyond its origins) exclusive? I am particularly interested in what is at stake in this question for the lens of sociability that I have been using. If Disney is the place to go in spite of the crowd, Central Park seems more in line with Hamadeh’s description of a place to “see and be seen”.

  11. Focusing on Harwood’s and Schenker’s articles, I thought of Busch Gardens theme park. Paralleling Schenker’s mention of “the earliest pleasure gardens [being] attached to country taverns,” Busch Gardens is adjacent to and operated by Anheuser-Busch brewery (73). While many theme parks are situated in the middle of a rural landscape, surrounded by trees with a few carefully chosen ones within the grounds itself, Busch Gardens seems to incorporate nature more directly. One roller coaster called the Big Bad Wolf (which was shut down not too long ago), zigzagged its riders between trees before plummeting towards a river. The ride is so integrated with nature that for its entire duration, its riders have a fear of slamming into the vegetation or actually falling into the river. The theme of Busch Gardens is based on old-world Europe, with sections of the park modeled after countries like Germany, England, and Italy. Thus, within the theme itself, Busch Gardens seems to represent the cultural diversity found in the pleasure gardens emphasized by Schenker.
    Having opened before Epcot Center, another theme park focused on international culture, Busch Gardens seems to represent a missing link between Epcot and the Kew Gardens mentioned by Harwood. Focusing on the Busch Gardens in Virginia, its trees and plants give a more authentic and majestic vibe like those in Ken Gardens whereas the ones of Epcot seem more artificial and ostentatious. Then again, maybe Epcot with its character-shaped hedges does hold more true to the “clutter, excessive ornamentation, and artificiality of the pleasure garden landscape” as describe by Schenker (69). If so, one may argue that Busch Gardens is more the elitist type of natural landscape. However, one does not go to Busch Gardens to quietly reflect upon nature. Its sense of “fantasy” and “escape,” complete with “architectural monuments” match Shenker’s description of pleasure gardens (70-71). Its lush trees are just another part of is theme, harkening to a less urban Europe.

  12. While I appreciated the attempt made in the two Dumbarton Oaks pieces (Heath Schenker’s and Edward Harwood’s) to juxtapose the modern theme park with pleasure gardens and landscape gardens, respectively, neither author fully unpacked the argument enough to make a compelling comparison. Although the historical models were thoughtfully analyzed, the reader was left wanting when it came to a thorough examination of their relevance to the modern theme park. Schenker promises to address how “the cultural criticism leveled at pleasure gardens anticipates criticism of theme parks today” (71), but leaves the reader to make the connection – we must rely on our own prior knowledge of contemporary theme parks to complete the puzzle. Harwood does provide a more rigorous attempt to contrast landscape gardens with the cultural structures (and strictures) of today’s theme parks. Most persuasive is Harwood’s assertion that modern day themed entertainment zones provide rigidly proscriptive experiences that leave the visitor with only the most minimal of opportunities for a personal or customized experiences. The choices afforded by the eighteenth-century landscape garden are varied and multifold: “whatever path we might set out upon is constantly meeting up with other paths that prevail upon our interest and cause us to move off in other directions,” an experience that contributes to a “ceaselessly evolving perspective” (68). In contrast, the Disneylands and Six Flags of today provide no such evolution. The few choices offered are circumscribed within larger, static narratives. While the visitor might choose to be a knight, a cowboy, or a Roman soldier (as we saw in “Westworld” last week), there is no opportunity for transgression or transcendence of these inflexible roles. For the visitor standing in line to experience a carefully-crafted theme experience, there is no possibility of wandering off the proverbial path in search of new connections and unforeseen experiences. My question is then, how does the pleasure garden portrayed by Schenker fit into this schema? What choices and options does the visitor have? Are they greater or less than those of the landscape garden? What are the roles of introspection and/or socialization in these environments?

  13. Among the various ideas and themes surrounding the idea of public gardens, what attracted me the most was the concept of revitalization and the commercial revolution of natural space through time, repeatedly mentioned in the texts. Hamadeh gives us various examples of imperial palaces that became available to a wider public and served the as a popular venue for new social interactions. With urbanization, ancient and private imperial palaces which “had once been inextricably linked to the cultivation of elite pleasures(138),” emerged as “central venues of urban culture.” He argues that the elite, by opening up imperial palaces, provided to the public “official and controllable venues of recreation” as the public looked for spheres in which urban life could be realized, which is an interesting opinion on looking at the role of the state elite on evolution of public gardens. In Harwood’s text, while making a comparison between the eighteenth-century landscape gardens and modern theme parks, he explains how the Disney Corporation successfully covers up the fundamental goal of making money by catering to the imagination and escapism of the masses. In this case, the intention of a commercialized theme park or garden is more financial as compared to the state elite’s intention of controlling urban life in Hamadeh’s text. Allen depicts the diverse strategies Johathan Tyers employed to re-vitalize the Vauxhall Gardens. The various trials to commercially exploit the garden and to democratize the garden for the middle-class market is very interesting to note. Schenker focuses more on the aspect of the Vauxhall Gardens as a “pleasure garden” and compares it to the more nature-oriented Central Park. Looking at the diverse reasons and process of commercialization of public gardens, I was reminded of the Chonggyecheon in Seoul. Recently, seoul has had numerous urban renewal projects, one of which is the Cheonggyecheon project. This was the site of a stream that flowed before the country’s rapid post-war development, which required for it to be covered by highways. Although the $900 million project initially attracted much public criticism, it has become immensely popular among city residents and tourists since its opening in 2005. This was a governmental effort, and its intentions were clearly for the enjoyment of the citizens and for tourists. Questions that came up to me while thinking about this were: If the renewal or evolution of public gardens were a success, can the intentions and means be justified? (most relevant with Disneyland. )And how do we define a “successful” theme park or public space? One that is continuously used even if it is commercial, or one that enforces a certain societal value such as preservation of nature and tradition. What components make an evolution of social space a success?

  14. I thought the relationship between the more naturalistic space such as Olmstead’s design for Central Park vs the more manufactued landscape of New York’s Vauxhall pleasure garden was interesting in that in the space in which nature was given more freedom to take its course (Central Park) there seemed to be more restrictions on the human activity that went on in the space. So while Olmstead’s Central Park was a more “natural” landscape, the human activity that went on it was of a more “civilized” flavor. The freedom to gather in large groups, drink and be loud that was one of the main benefits of Vauxhall was discouraged or maybe even restricted in Central Park. There seemed to have been an idea in 19th century New York that nature was somehow more sophisticated than a manicured landscape and even required a certain level of aesthetic education and developed taste to appreciate in full. The faux-wilds of Central Park take on the stature of high art while the garden, finding its origins in the private gardens of the English upperclass, is degraded to a space of debauchery and even sensuality. Its interesting also to think about how “The Ramble”, the most wild, forest-like space in Central Park that for Olmstead was one of the park’s primary features became, in the second half of the 20th century, synonymous with danger and the marginalized social groups of NYC.
    I also thought the cycles of use and disuse that some of Istanbul’s pleasure gardens went through was interesting. Like how certain private royal gardens that were built, no doubt, as spaces for the elite to enjoy, fell out of favor with the royalty and over time were handed over to the public. And while the public would take favor with a garden for some time, it wasn’t long before it would gain a reputation for being occupied by the city’s “riffraff” and fell out of favor and eventually stop being used. Thinking about a park such as Central Park that has remained popular, probably even increased in popularity since it was built 150 years old ago, what makes a park/garden timeless? or are all of these spaces destined to lose their appeal? Disneyland seems to be a kind of model in that even in its relatively short history it remains extremely popular by reinventing itself, preserving its classic attractions while expanding and adding new sensational features over time. If Disneyland was built partially out of a nostalgia for an older, less complicated America that may or may not have existed, it seems that Disneyland itself, fifty or so years old, has become part of that mythical American past. While new rides based on new Disney movies are added to the park, places like the Magical Kingdom and Epcot take on not only their role as landscapes of fantasy but also as a kind of museum for what has become an iconic and even historical space in the U.S.

  15. I’m interested in the different paradigms of travel and class that come up in the readings. I’ve suspected for a long time that American “capsule” spaces (malls, theme parks, fairs) work as substitutes for travel in its traditional sense—a pricy visit to a foreign place, whether it be national or international. Many of the spaces we read about this week also served as travel substitutes for unmobile urban residents: parks, gardens, fairs, and cafés all transported local visitors to someplace foreign or exotic world. The Turkish tent at the Vauxhall pleasure garden is an obvious example of this, but even a public park can feel like a vacation after a long day of work. Such spaces seem to provide a “democratic” or as Hardwood puts it, “de-differentiating” form of travel, where the unfamiliar can be attained not just by the elites but by a diverse mass. Landscape gardens were an attraction for a different traveler, a mobile 18th c. elite who wanted to individually connect with the garden environment as a work of art.

    Though my instinct pushed me towards an interesting comparison, there are a couple problems in mapping of 19th paradigms onto our own world of mass tourism. First of all, the spectrum of what is considered local and exotic has changed with increased accessibility. People still go to the county fair when they can’t fly to Barbados, but on a whole, the world has become easier to visit.

    Concurrently, travel has become less distinct from everyday life. Disney World, for example, isn’t local to anywhere but America as a whole. Though in Orlando, it is weirdly placeless and timeless. It attracts not with exotica but with familiar childhood movie references.

    How does Disney bridge this class gap? I think this is in part because the Disney capsule doesn’t manufacture difference from the locale surrounding it (in this case, America) like pleasure gardens did, but rather exaggerates its familiarity. This brings us back to Baudrillard’s simulacra. In other words, Disney doesn’t feel “different” from visitors’ homes, but rather more home than home. In plain words, I think it makes people feel nostalgic.

    This same argument about mass tourism could be made for cruise ships, which take passengers to see other countries from the portals of these of small, miniature America-compounds floating in the ocean. On cruises, like on Disney resort hotels, class distinctions are based on levels of luxury (price of food, thread count of sheets, etc.) not fundamental kinds of experience.

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