Virtual Voyages

Cinema and Travel

Virtual Voyages

Book Pages: 312 Illustrations: 41 b&w photographs Published: January 2006

Anthropology > Cultural Anthropology, Cultural Studies, Media Studies > Film

Virtual Voyages illuminates the pivotal role of travelogues within the history of cinema. The travelogue dominated the early cinema period from 1895 to 1905, was central to the consolidation of documentary in the 1910s and 1920s, proliferated in the postwar era of 16mm distribution, and today continues to flourish in IMAX theaters and a host of non-theatrical venues. It is not only the first chapter in the history of documentary but also a key element of ethnographic film, home movies, and fiction films. In this collection, leading film scholars trace the intersection of technology and ideology in representations of travel across a wide variety of cinematic forms. In so doing, they demonstrate how attention to the role of travel imagery in film blurs distinctions between genres and heightens awareness of cinema as a technology for moving through space and time, of cinema itself as a mode of travel.

Some contributors take a broad view of travelogues by examining the colonial and imperial perspectives embodied in early travel films, the sensation of movement that those films evoked, and the role of live presentations such as lectures in our understanding of travelogues. Other essays are focused on specific films, figures, and technologies, including early travelogues encouraging Americans to move to the West; the making and reception of the documentary Grass (1925), shot on location in Turkey, Syria, Iraq, and Iran; the role of travel imagery in 1930s Hollywood cinema; the late-twentieth-century 16mm illustrated-lecture industry; and the panoramic possibilities presented by IMAX technologies. Together the essays provide a nuanced appreciation of how, through their representations of travel, filmmakers actively produce the worlds they depict.

Contributors. Rick Altman, Paula Amad, Dana Benelli, Peter J. Bloom, Alison Griffiths, Tom Gunning, Hamid Naficy, Jennifer Lynn Peterson, Lauren Rabinovitz, Jeffrey Ruoff, Alexandra Schneider, Amy J. Staples


Virtual Voyages’ value lies in the attention it calls to oft-overlooked history. . . . [It] is a valuable reference source. . . .” — Elizabeth Mazzolini, The Communication Review

Virtual Voyages offers a comprehensive look at the social and cultural conditions that popularlised the travelogue as well as its successors in contemporary culture.” — Emma Conneely, M/C Reviews

“[A] timely and welcome contribution to studies of visual culture, travel narrative, media studies, anthropology and cultural history.” — Robert Clarke, Media International Australia

“[C]ogent essays that shed considerable light on the travelogue and its important relationship to technology, tourism, and transportation. . . . Recommended.” — J. I. Deutsch, Choice

“This anthology is a very enjoyable read. . . . All that remains now is to encourage potential readers to sit back and enjoy the ride.” — Stefan Roesch Koenig, Journal of Sustainable Tourism

“This is the first book to cover the history of travelogues, and on balance I think it quite an success. . . . [G]enerally carefully produced and includes a host of valuable contributions.” — Stephen Bottomore, Early Popular Visual Culture

“Virtual Voyages reveals a fine appreciation of the many and varied contextual settings of the travelogue, teasing out its different incarnations in its past and present forms.” — Saige Walton, Screening the Past

Virtual Voyages offers us an incisive look at the ways and means by which nonfiction cinema has mobilized itself to span time and space, carrying viewers across magical expanses for what appears to be a nominal price. The hidden costs and complex pleasures of virtual travel receive close scrutiny in a book that is sure to stimulate further explorations.” — Bill Nichols, author of Introduction to Documentary

“Stretching from early cinema to IMAX, Virtual Voyages offers the best tour yet available of the production and presentation of travel films, one of the most durable and intriguing—and too long overlooked—of film genres. The reprinted and new essays collected by Jeffrey Ruoff historically situate Hale’s Tours, Burton Holmes’s lectures, home movies, Grass, Jungle Headhunters, Everest, and a host of other examples of the genre, and theorize the particular knowledges and pleasures the travel film offers of an exotic and mundane world in motion.” — Gregory Waller, editor of Moviegoing in America: A Sourcebook in the History of Film Exhibition


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Author/Editor Bios Back to Top

Jeffrey Ruoff is Assistant Professor of Film and Television Studies at Dartmouth College. He is the author of An American Family: A Televised Life and a coauthor of The Emperor’s Naked Army Marches On. His films and videos, including The Last Vaudevillian and Hacklebarney Tunes: The Music of Greg Brown have been shown at festivals and on television in the United States and abroad.

Table of Contents Back to Top
Acknowledgments xi

Introduction: The Filmic Fourth Dimension: Cinema as Audiovisual Vehicle / Jeffrey Ruoff 1

I. Traveling Machines: Space, Time, Difference

“The Whole World Within Reach”: Travel Images without Borders / Tom Gunning 25

From Hale’s Tours to Star Tours: Virtual Voyages, Travel Ride Films,
and the Delirium of the Hyper-Real / Lauren Rabinovitz 42

From Lecturer’s Prop to Industrial Product: The Early History of Travel Films / Rick Altman 61

II. Travelogues and Silent Cinema

“The Nation’s First Playground”: Travel Films and the American West, 1895–1920 / Jennifer Lynn Peterson 79

Between the “Familiar Text” and the “Book of the World”: Touring the
Ambivalent Contexts of Travel Films / Paula Amad 99

Lured by the East: Ethnographic and Expedition Films about Nomadic
Tribes—The Case of Grass (1925) / Hamid Naficy 117

Trans-Saharan Automotive Cinema: Citroen-, Renault-, and
Peugeot-Sponsored Documentary Interwar Crossing Films / Peter J. Bloom 139

Homemade Travelogues: Autosonntag—A Film Safari in the
Swiss Alps / Alexandra Schneider 157

III. Travelogues in the Sound Era

Hollywood and the Attractions of the Travelogue / Dana Benelli 177

“The Last of the Great (Foot-Slogging) Explorers”: Lewis Cotlow and
the Ethnographic Imaginary in Popular Travel Film / Amy J. Staples 195

Show and Tell: The 16mm Travel Lecture Film / Jeffrey Ruoff 217

Time Traveling IMAX Style: Tales from the Giant Screen / Alison Griffiths 238

Works Cited 259

Contributors 283

Index 285
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Additional InformationBack to Top
Paper ISBN: 978-0-8223-3713-3 / Cloth ISBN: 978-0-8223-3701-0
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