Nathan Ryan Reeves

Narrative (simplified from the reading)

A poet and avid traveler had a journey from the mainland to the islands of the Caribbean where he had always dreamed of going to. His journey was planned ever since he was a little boy, and never got the chance until he was an adult. However, the people that told him to go, also told him to “tread lightly” and that he could be tricked at some point there. Knowing that he was an outsider and was obvious since he was traveling from a distant land. The poet was looking for an authentic experience outside of what he was used to and decided that he would play it by ear when he got to his destination. When he got into the market at the shore, he saw many stores and stands with food, and signs saying the “Best [insert food] in the world”, and other attractions that could be for him. He knew of places to go to down towards inland of the island because he had heard of great pieces of art, and statues that were advanced for their time, and not to forget, the more modern shops that reminded him that this place was still a place where people lived. He had walked for some time before he had gotten past the touristy attractions and got to real shops. He wondered to himself, what was the normal thing to do at a place like this? What is a traditional day like? And what is the significance of this journey? What experience can he grab from this place that no other tourist had experienced before?

Although the monumental sites are cool and the beaches are fabulous, but he wondered if it was a good idea to steer away from the “traveler norm” and wondered what someone does on a day to day basis. And thought of his own life back at home, and wondered if the traveler’s norm is really so much different from the normal life. He gave it some thought about whether or not he visits monuments in his home town and realized that he has only done so when he walks to work in the mornings.

The poet realizes in a flash that he had not heeded the warning of the place trying to trick you. While it didn’t trick him literally, the concept of something authentic was right in his face the whole time, and he had decided to not listen to it until now. He pondered whether or not the market was a “front” and if there were no tourists coming if there was ever an opportunity for the market. The poet had decided to take a walk deeper into the island on the roads and went wherever the roads had taken him in the end.

Lucas Enrique Fernandez

Tourism and the Semiotics of Nostalgia


Authenticity. For something or someone to be undisputedly genuine is a trait sought after by the masses. To have the opportunity to eat authentic cuisine means you are getting something as close to the source as possible. To collect authentic gems are to have those that are real and untainted by the hands of others. We seek to surround ourselves with people who are authentic, people that are exactly as they show us. When any of these things mentioned above are revealed as inauthentic there is an automatic backlash and vituperation of the character of that thing. This carries over to travel as well.

Here the tourist, understood as a faux voyageur, is contrasted with the heroic figure of the traveler and accused of a lack of interest in the culturally authentic.

The quote shows that those seeking the authentic while traveling are heralded as travelers while tourists are associated with the inauthentic and criticized.

Fuller expands on this surface level criticism,  claiming tourism as a quest for, rather than a turn from, that authentic experience of the world available to the pre-industrial traveler

However, there is a paradox that stems from this in the post-industrial world where the more the tourist seeks the authentic, the further they stray from it.

I believe that tourists cannot be dismissed and set aside so easily for this as it is a complex matter. In the end, we are all striving towards the authentic and often fall short of it. On social media, the goal is to portray an authentic portrait of yourself to your friends and family but people often show inauthentic snippets of their lives. Even in our real lives people struggle to be true to themselves in all situations when faced with societal and peer pressures. Authenticity is something to praise to be certain, but is not the end all be all determinant in the character of something/someone.

Moonjung Jun

Progym: Confirmation
In the article “The Semiotics of Tourism”, Culler makes an interesting observation in connecting tourism with semiotics. Furthermore, by diagnosing that tourism is part of a culture he develops his argument about how people are drawn to the symbols and imagery. He introduces semiotics which is the study of signs and the production of meaning in the images or symbols. There are a variety of examples he gives, which includes when french singing an English song but with a French accent seem more charming than if they were just singing in French. This illustration shows that there is a resemblance to symbols of accent that correspond to certain cultures. Developing his point on tourism, he says, there is a desire for people to distinguish tourists from travelers in tourism. This is an integral part of how people through the ages have become more familiar with touristy spots rather than going on a journey. He refers to a quote, “Going by railroad I do not consider as traveling at all; it is merely being ‘sent’ to a place, and very little different from becoming a parcel.” The profound meaning is that in the modern sense of tourism has shifted. Some wished that there was authenticity in the way people traveled to different places and to reclaim what it meant to travel without trains or airplanes. All of this Culler says is a “powerful semiotic operator within tourism” that the selling point of commercial tourism is the idea of bringing authentic travel. In a semiotic sense, tourists want to bring about the feeling of authenticity in their surroundings, to find meaning, and allocate different signs. These signs include postcards to souvenirs. The idiom that captivates Culler’s argument is the “tourist attractions” and the creation of these things as commercial companies are figuring out ways to bring about the meaning in different historical labels.

Samuel James Conroy

Comparison Progymnasmata

            Frow’s writing, Tourism and the Semiotics of Nostalgia, is a very intricate piece that goes into great deal about the different between a tourist and a traveler, as well as the minutiae of semiotics. This pleases me as in our previous reading by Culler, he also went into the differences between the two rather than lumping them together as one, which I had previously complained about.

Culler makes the distinction between the two based on how they perceive the culture of the country in which they are travelling to. The traveler will try his best to adapt to that culture and be there to experience what they have to offer. However, a tourist will want to experience what they believe to be the culture, aka a French guy speaking English with a French accent as opposed to just speaking French. Frow goes into more why the tourist is demonized. He provides a list of three moves:

  1. Criticism of tourism as inauthentic activity
    1. This is where the tourist is contrasted against the more heroic traveler and targeted as a cultural appropriator.
  2. The narrative of tourism is a much more complicated and ambivalent one
    1. A paradox is presented here as the tourist is valued positively as attempting to have an authentic experience, however in the post-industrial world this is not possible and ends up losing its authenticity.
  3. Follows from the internal condition of paradox progressively revealed in the playing out of the second
    1. A similar case to the second move, here authentic forms of travel are compared to inauthentic ones and an attempt to make a distinction is made.

This is a very complicated analysis yet makes a distinct point about the issue of authenticity. As with many things in modern times, travel has been done on just about every corner of the planet. Countries have established tourism divisions and the internet has made it possible to go just about everywhere. This makes me question, is authentic travel possible anymore? Everyone has been just about everywhere and done just about everything. In my opinion there may never be another authentic travel experience with the current connection the world has.

Phillip Wade Wilson

Tourism and the Semiotics of Nostalgia – John Frow

Frow claims there are three main ways in which tourism is explained and can be understood as, the first pits the tourist against the traveler, the second establishes a positive narrative for the traveler in a postindustrial world, and the third compares authentic forms of tourism to those that are not and seeks to establish what is and is not authentic. In a previous reading by Culler, we noted that the way in which things are gives rise to consequences that shape how others view a specific thing. For instance, a fur coat is not simply a garment to keep one warm but rather a status symbol of fashion, wealth, and power that happens to additionally be a garment to keep one warm. In this reading by Frow, that same argument is extended and includes three main pieces being:

“inseparability of the object from its semiotic status”
“sheer impossibility of constructing otherness”
To construct a “good tourist object” one must “construct it as a plausible simulation of itself”

This can be seen everywhere in the travel industry as it is commonplace for travel advertisements to use an exclusivity ploy of “the real…” in order to draw in more people. Since tourists are looked down upon in the travel industry and travelers are pedestaled, many tourist information hubs now shift their focus from showing what “touristy” locations are available in a certain city, country, or area they emphasize living like a local. Nearly all travel sites encourage their users to get to know the place they are going “like a native” (or something of the like) because tourists are seen as a societal annoyance, but world travelers are seen with this aristocratic gloss. Frow writes about this paradoxical idea between traveler and tourist, and the outcomes this has on other areas of travel.

The portrayed authentic or real…. can be dreadful because it extends a false sense of what a place actually is without the person making up their own mind on what something is or is not. With so many external forces giving people preexisting notions on practically everything, from religion to government, when it comes time to make one’s mind up on something as simple as how a place one is visiting is conceived in one head thoughts blend together and a convoluted, and oftentimes incorrect, ideas. For example, when I was abroad in Spain, we had a native Spaniard give us a tour she said she would take us to all the local spots, but where we ended up was with a bunch of other tourists in the same spaces they were occupying. A similar occurrence happened in Belize; we were offered a local’s guide to one of the coastal cities, but it turned out to be just another tourist hotspot as all the other tours were on the same path. These ‘local guides’ promoted the already established ideas of the places they lived to newcomers with, most likely, no intention of upholding commonly held beliefs nonetheless they continued to exacerbate them. It seemed in these cases, where tourism was a heavy component of the economy, the mark of authenticity was a key component to continuing their touristic cycle and vastly beneficial to the local populations while being slightly misleading to the tourists themselves.

Aongus Mui

Tourism and the Semiotics of Tourism by John Frow

Progym: Impersonation/Description

I took a seat on the third step of my front door. I felt the soft chills of the wind push the top of my hair over my eyes. I looked into the distance, into the red leaves of october. A single leaf, bright red, floated sided to side gently landing atop the grass. I was instantly reminded of autumn and all the joy that it brings with it; the crisp air, the pumpkins, and the caramel apples. The autumn season has always had a special place within me. I recalled my previous memories in autumn, walking through a road of leaves with the warmth of a cup of coffee in my hands, it was the perfect way to clear my mind. Just me, alone with my thoughts on a walk through nature. I remembered the air being so perfect, not too cold or too hot. I reminisce on all my autumn memories with the sight of a single red leaf.

I tried to impersonate John Frow’s writing on page 124 about the time he reminisced upon a pine tree. “I was immediately reminded of the Priest Noin who had grieved to find upon his second visit this same tree.” This is an example of when Frow got a sense of nostalgia about something that he had seen before. I tried to impersonate what he had done in the poem. Frow’s main point was that nostalgia not only helps us become better tourists but it also helps us in our daily life. “For the perspectives of our everyday life, the unique heritage object has aura.” Frow explains that seeing certain objects from our past helps remind us of how simple our life might have been. In the passage that I wrote i wanted to show how something as simple as a leaf could bring me back to the times where happiness was easily accessible, where I was stress free.

Paula I Arraiza

An Encomium to People

Type of progym: Encomium

Personally, I think we can all resonate with Frow’s explanation of nostalgia as a “social disease”, especially during these difficult times.  compares nostalgia with the sense of certain losses including

“the sense of loss of personal wholeness and moral certainty”,

“the sense of loss of individual freedom and autonomy”, and

“the sense of loss of simplicity, personal authenticity, and emotional spontaneity”

While he was talking more about travel, I couldn’t help but relate it back to everyone’s abrupt change due to lifestyle due to Coronavirus. Since March, the world as we know it has completely changed, many might argue for the worse. I know we are all tired of talking about Coronavirus and quarantine and everything of the sort, it’s definitely taken a toll on a lot of people’s mental health. However, we can’t help but long for the life we had before everything dramatically changed. Especially during those first weeks of isolation, it felt like we were living based on past memories. Even though I’m more of an introvert, I found myself missing being around people in every way possible.

I felt like I took every small moment for granted, from bumping into random strangers when walking in the street to eating inside a restaurant with my best friends. Like Frow mentioned, it felt like I had lost my sense of individual freedom and authority, since I was now required, along with basically the entire world, to stay inside my house and stay at least six feet apart from one another. I long for the days where we could all go out and the streets were full of people, all from different walks of life. Even the dreadful task of barely making it inside a packed metro cart during rush hour seems like such a good, joyful memory when I think back on it. Certainly, nothing sounds more fulfilling than being able to have a short conversation with a stranger who you will never cross paths with again. Yet, we’re advised to not get too close to each other and hide our expressions behind a face mask, or we might catch a deadly virus and end up being another fatality.

I surely took all of these simple times for granted, which is something I heavily regret. Going out to somewhere packed where not a single person is wearing a mask seems like a thing of the past, but I still find myself hoping to go back to those times. For now, I can just reminisce about all those nostalgia-filled moments.

Samuel E Evans

“Tourism and the Semiotics of Nostalgia” by John Frow

Progym: Chreia

Frow’s writing highlights an idea that has seemed to linger at the back of my mind, though I couldn’t ever have put a finger on. Why do we travel? Culturally, I mean. It seems as though we are all in search of something, thinking that each trip should fulfill something within us, that each moment away from home should be a new page of our enlightenment. Frow takes a spin on this, saying that it in fact nostalgia that drives us, be it of a real historical period, or because of some feeling that a location is more wholesome, enlightened, or real.

“Nostalgia for a lost authenticity is a paralyzing structure of historical reflection,”

he writes, and this reflection leads us far and wide to find authenticity (135).

Frow asserts that nostalgia is an essential part of the tourist experience, in large part because it is central to our modernity. He writes that modern society at large, though often not even knowing it, is constantly longing for some lost, fictional past in which things were better. We long for “simpler times” indicated by childhood or happy days, and we think that somehow we have collectively undergone some kind of cultural decline. For example, every election cycle you hear calls that “oh this could never be worse,” or “I’ve never seen something like this,” and people long for the Obama or Reagan or Kennedy years when things were better, easier, or simpler, when in fact you heard the same calls at those times. It is this kind of eternal nostalgia, Frow says, that contributes to our tourist culture.

In his writing, Frow briefly references the popular idea of traveling for exoticism. The idea is very similar to his concept of traveling for nostalgia, in that from both perspectives we are in search of something as travelers. Both, to some extent, seek authenticity: something that is authentically foreign and exotic, or something that is authentic because of its relation to a better era. We may also think of traveling for the exotic as a kind of nostalgia, as we ride the gondolas in Venice or the tuk-tuks in India because they are both foreign and almost from another time from our Western perspective. The two ideas are not contradicting, but rather reinforce each other.

The souvenir, Frow says, is a prime example of nostalgia in travel. He says,

“the souvenir has as its vocation the continual reestablishment of a bridge between origin and trace… it works by establishing a metonymic relation with the moment of origin” (145).

We are so attached to this kind of nostalgia, that not only do we travel to fulfill our desire for it, but we must also buy tokens to remind us of our journeys to do so, to satisfy our following nostalgia for the trip itself. This is almost a kind of cycle of nostalgia, and it is a perfect example of the travel industry capitalizing on this concept. I, for example, traveled to my hometown of Green Bay driven by nostalgia and then bought a t-shirt in anticipation of future nostalgia for that trip; the same can be said of my trip to Germany, I traveled there almost for a kind of cultural nostalgia for the Old World, and I returned with beer-hall coasters.

Frow’s thesis in this piece represents the most convincing argument for why we travel that I have read thus far. Nostalgia is abundant in our culture, and the more I consider it the more I see it around us. It is no doubt then that we would choose our destinations based on nostalgia. Few people choose to travel to brand-new landmarks, because they do not have the cultural history to make them relevant, and many popular new landmarks are built with some kind of historical grandeur in mind. Frow’s argument seems to be the most logical conclusion based upon this. We don’t leave behind our culture of nostalgia when we travel, but rather our travel is one output for this nostalgia.

Ehren Joseph Layne

Redefining Authenticity

I would like to offer a redefinition of the word “authentic”: inspired by Culler’s usage of authenticity as it pertains to the semiotics of tourism, I came about a line of thought for which I believe helps authenticity stand on its own. Culler defines authenticity as the state of something being marked as genuine, and therefore signifying genuine authenticity. Tourists are obsessed with going to places and seeing things authentically, even when their perceived notion of what is authentic is derived from the inauthentic. Culler explains how tourists are more than satisfied with the inauthentic, given that their reason for traveling – in many instances –  is to experience something not of themselves: the inauthentic. Even when dealing with the inauthentic, and being manipulated by the inauthentic, tourists still find themselves in locations deemed authentic because of these locations being anywhere but the home of the tourist. Because of this, tourism tends to blurry the view of what is authentic versus inauthentic, and even though semiotics provides us with an outline as to how we can differentiate between the authentic and inauthentic, I would much rather provide a more detailed definition of authenticity: 


Authenticity is the state of being in which anyone or anything is itself. No marker, nor signifier can take away from anything being anything but itself. The perception of authenticity holds no meaning: if anything is itself, no other perception of it is authentic – leading any other perception of the authentic as inauthentic. 


How I relate my definition to Culler’s expository on the semiotics of tourism is by stripping away the parts of semiotics that lead the authentic into inauthenticity: specifically markers and signifiers. I do understand that without markers and signifiers, there seems to be no way of telling if something is or is not authentic. Not only that, but signifiers and markers tend to help the authentic retain its own authenticity. With that being said, I argue that in order to understand the authentic, we must clearly define what it means to be authentic. Culler provides no clear definition for authenticity, and even though he dances around authenticity by using it as a tool for breaking down semiotics, his expository never reveals a thorough understanding of the authentic. I believe that this is because semiotics falls short of defining authenticity, and that our understanding of authenticity is heavily flawed by capitalism. 


Capitalism, and the commodification of sight(as explained by Urry in “The Tourist Gaze”) makes everything anything but itself. Once a landscape or townscape can be used as a means of gaining profit, it becomes a product. Once a product, that landscape or townscape is no longer perceived as authentic, but rather a product of authenticity. Tourists will come from anywhere to gaze upon said location, to buy its authenticity and make real the dream of being somewhere that isn’t home. The authentic becomes the product, and given my definition of authenticity, that makes any landscape or townscape made product inauthentic. Let me be clear: I am not trying to take away from the identity of different locations. Rather, I am trying to present a way of looking at authenticity that can, hopefully, bring power back to locations used purely as tourist attractions.


(I ended my thesis here but do have more I wish to share.)