Academic journal article American Studies

SOUVENIRS OF THE OLD SOUTH: Northern Tourism and Southern Mythology

Academic journal article American Studies

SOUVENIRS OF THE OLD SOUTH: Northern Tourism and Southern Mythology

Article excerpt

SOUVENIRS OF THE OLD SOUTH: Northern Tourism and Southern Mythology. By Rebecca Cawood McIntyre. Gainesville: University Press of Florida. 2011.

From moonlit magnolias to quaint rural folk, the template for tourist images of the South has been narrowly construed, as shown by Rebecca Cawood McIntyre in Souvenirs of the Old South: Northern Tourism and Southern Mythology. What is the genealogy of these images? To answer this question, McIntyre delves into the history of southern tourism starting in the 1830s, when northern guidebook writers took advantage of better transportation to travel through the South and write about it for other northerners. In this way, McIntyre is interested in what might be called the touristic colonization of the South by the North. As she writes, "travel literature instructed tourists to see the region as a place where tourists could temporarily alleviate the problems and uncertainties of the modern world by stepping into a Dixie fantasyland of the past" (7).

Using sources including guidebooks and travelogues, McIntyre explores how the imagining of the South changed over time. Before the Civil War, tourist discourse ignored slavery in order to assert that the South was America writ small, except with amenities like hot springs (arguably better than the crowded ones in upstate New York) and picturesque landscapes. In the postbellum era, however, travel writers emphasized the South as different from the frenetic north. It was romantic, simpler, and, most disturbingly, peopled by rural whites and African Americans whose stereotypical depiction was meant to soothe anxious northerners whose own cities were becoming more ethnically and racially diverse. While ascribing attitudes to people in the past is always fraught, McIntyre argues that, "by detecting which experiences are packaged with a particular image, it is possible to uncover the needs, desires, and anxieties of the tourist audience" (4). …

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