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Phillip Wade Wilson

The Tourist Gaze “Revisited” – John Urry: Narrative

“The most mundane of activities, such as shopping, strolling, sitting having a drink, or swimming, appear special when conducted against a striking visual backcloth”

It always seems that when I travel somewhere different the most boring of activities I almost dread to do at home become somewhat of an excitement. I’m not sure if it’s the excitement of doing this activity somewhere new or the fact that I’m happy or even excited about being in that different place altogether so everything seems fun. As Urry has stated, we tourists love to look for the perceptions we want to see in a different place and the visual impact this has on us is based on the presence we are in and what that means to us. I think about every place I have been, especially recently, and I remember how seeing a style of architecture or a landmark changed my perspective of the city or area I was in. On my last trip abroad when I was in Milan, I remember the sights I saw most of all… least of all I remember the smells of the city, the taste of the food, and the sounds I heard. I remember bits and pieces of the latter, but the sights are ingrained much deeper in my memories than everything else.

The idea of sightseeing and using our vision that Urry portrays, in a way, reminds of me of ‘veni, vidi, vici’ (I came, I saw, I conquered). As a tourist, I go to a certain country or city or town or even historical site. As a tourist, I see all the site has to offer while documenting my time there via camera and memories I get to savor for a lifetime. As a tourist, I conquer the place I visit by experiencing all it has to offer and taking it all in so that I can take them back home with me.

2 replies on “The Tourist Gaze “Revisited” – John Urry: Narrative”

I thought you did a really good job at bringing in multiple themes, and I like your point comparing Urry’s ideas to the Latin saying at the end. I also used your quote from Urry at the top, and I think it is one of his most memorable observations in the reading. One thing you could maybe have tried is expanding on your narrative, such as by telling more specifics of your trip to Milan, and maybe mixed that in with your other observations. I think you opened really well with your narrative, but that the focus on it waned a little. Besides this, I think you had some good observations, and I like the way you describe how we as tourists perceive our surroundings sensationally.

Phillip, I love the insight here about the relation (or lack thereof) of other senses to the gaze. I only wanted more: do we smell tourist destinations–as places to be consumed–in the same way Urry argues that we see them? I think for example of Anthony Bourdain and his food travel–it seems in a way like the “tourist nose” that experiences different cultures in terms of a structured, Western, capitalist/consumerist pleasure.

To improve with narration, which is one of the most important progym moves, because telling stories really will improve your writing by compelling your audience, providing ethos and pathos…. to be honest, I’m not clear how this is a narration. You begin to tell a story about having visited Milan… but you don’t follow through. A narration has a “beginning, middle, and end.” It’s a story. And you can get creative by moving those parts around: for example, beginning at the end. Or, another classic move, beginning in the middle of the action (called “in medias res”).

Anyway, consider these dimensions of narration per the progym website:
Who did it
What was done
When it was done
Where it was done
How it was done
Why it was done

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