Europeans in the nineteenth century were fascinated with the wild and the primitive. So compelling was the craving for a first-hand experience of wilderness that it provided a lasting foundation for tourism as a consumer industry. In this book, Patricia Jasen shows how the region now known as Ontario held special appeal for tourists seeking to indulge a passion for wild country or act out their fantasies of primitive life. Niagara Falls, the Thousand Islands, Muskoka, and the far reaches of Lake Superior all offered the experiences tourists valued most: the tranquil pleasures of the picturesque, the excitement of the sublime, and the sensations of nostalgia associated with Canada's disappearing wilderness.
Jasen situates her work within the context of recent writings about tourism history and the semiotics of tourism, about landscape perception and images of 'wildness' and 'wilderness,' and about the travel narrative as a literary genre. She explores a number of major themes, including the imperialistic appropriation and commercialization of landscape into tourist images, services, and souvenirs. In a study of class, gender, and race, Jasen finds that by the end of the century, most workers still had little opportunity for travel, while the middle classes had come to regard holidays as a right and a duty in light of Social Darwinist concerns about preserving the health of the 'race.' Women travellers have been disregarded or marginalized in many studies of the history of tourism, but this book makes their presence known and analyses their experience. It also examines, against the backdrop of nineteenth-century racism and expansionism, the major role played by Native people in the tourist industry.
The first book to explore the cultural foundations of tourism in Ontario, Wild Things also makes a major contribution to the literature on the wilderness ideal in North America.
About the author
Patricia Jasen is a professor in the Department of History, Lakehead University, Thunder Bay.