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Discordant Notes

Journal of Australian Studies 88
Bart Ziino Who Owns Gallipoli? Australia's Gallipoli Anxieties 1915-2005, Sue Lovell, 'Dew to the Soul': One Australian Artist's Response to War, Peter Kirkpatrick Hunting the Wild Reciter: Elocution and the Art of Recitation, Felicity Plunkett 'You Make Me a Dot in the Nowhere': Textual Encounters in the Australian Immigration Story (the Fourth Chapter), Bridget Griffen-Foley From the Murrumbidgee to Mamma Lena: Foreign Language Broadcasting on Australian Commercial Radio, Part I, Emily Pollnitz ...
Wednesday, 23rd July 2014
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API Review of Books

Altitude BirdIssue 44
Features reviews by Kathleen Broderick, Linn Miller, Christine Choo, Bill Thorpe, David Ritter, Eve Vincent, Stephanie Bishop, Alison Miles, Richard Kay, Amanda Day, Bernard Whimpress, Mads Clausen, Marion May Campbell, Sylvia Alston, Catie Gilchrist, Eva Chapman, Lucy Dougan, Stephen Lawrence and Nathanael O'Reilly. Click here for more details.


Altitude BirdPopular Music: Practices, Formations and Change - Australian Perspectives
The papers collected here in this special edition of Altitude offer a brief snapshot of popular music research broadly connected with Australia. The essays demonstrate the variety of theoretical and methodological approaches used by researchers in the fields of popular music studies and cultural studies to explore themes of popular music practice, formation and change in an Australian context. Click here for more details.


The Pursuit of Wonder: How Australia's landscape was explored, nature discovered and tourism unleashed

By Julia Horne, Carlton: The Miegunyah Press, 2005, 350 pages, hardcover, $39.95. Reviewed by Paul Genoni in the January 2006 issue.

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Recent years have witnessed a growing academic interest in the history of Australian tourism and leisure travel. Significant studies have included Jim Davidson and Peter Spearitt's Holiday Business: Tourism in Australia since 1870 (2000) and Richard White's On Holidays: A History of Getting Away in Australia (2005); while other contributions such as Leone Huntsman's Sand in our Souls: The Beach in Australian History (2001) have examined particular sites of Australian recreation and leisure. The same period has also seen the emergence in Australian universities of departments dedicated to tourism related teaching and research.

Julia Horne's The Pursuit of Wonder is a further contribution to this emerging study of Australian tourism. The particular focus of the book as described by Horne is 'to explore how the evolution of ideas about wonder in scenic Australia in the nineteenth century -- produced by middle and upper-class explorers and tourists -- had far-reaching social and cultural effects, and in its wake helped create not only a tourist industry, but also an enduring interest in the natural environment'. (5) She achieves this in a series of chapters which explore the manner in which European concepts of tourism were developed and then transferred to Australia. There is a particular emphasis on tourism undertaken in search of certain types of landscapes -- those conforming to the concepts of the sublime and the picturesque -- which were said to confer some particular moral or spiritual benefit upon the viewer. The book concludes with separate chapters focusing on particular aspects of Australian landscapes that were susceptible to viewing according to nineteenth century preferences; mountains, limestone caves and ferns. In the process Horne also offers some fascinating insights into the practical development of tourist infrastructure in nineteenth century Australia, particularly with regard to the building of safe access through difficult physical terrain.

The thrust of Horne's argument is working with understandings of the cultural construction of the landscape by settler societies that are now widely understood. That is to say, cultural and social conditioning and expectations heavily mediate settler encounters with space and place. For Horne's purposes tourists are described as seeking out landscapes that conformed to the expectations of the sublime and picturesque, and then subsequently reporting their journeys in ways that further reinforced the preference for these types of landscapes.

Furthermore, the styles of cultural production that result from such interactions of people and place -- of which tourism is Horne's chosen example -- will also inevitably embed prevailing cultural and social values. In the quote featured above Horne refers specifically to the matter of class, but she is also at pains to feature the extent to which tourism and travel in nineteenth century Australia were heavily gendered activities. Indeed Horne makes hard work of some of this material. Even the casual or general -- as opposed to academic -- reader is likely to have an innate understanding of the extent to which class and gender continue to dictate travel activity, and many of the points Horne makes in these regards are repetitive and laboured.

The great value of The Pursuit of Wonder is in the wide range of primary evidence that Horne has mustered to support her arguments. Although some of these might be familiar -- for example the published journals of explorers, 'celebrity' tourists such as Lachlan Macquarie, and landmark scientists such as Charles Darwin -- she has also gathered numerous unpublished accounts and pictorial evidence from many less well-known travellers. Much of this evidence is necessarily fragmentary, but it often brings alive the experience of nineteenth century touring with a wonderful clarity. For even if some of these accounts are made occasionally trite by the need to render the experience in accordance with a reader's expectations of ideal landscapes, many of them also carry the revealing stamp of genuine experience.

It should be noted that while Horne has apparently worked to broaden the book's geographic coverage, there remains a heavy emphasis on the development of tourism in the Blue Mountain region of New South Wales. Other examples she draws upon include Victoria's Dandenong Ranges, Mount Wellington In Tasmania, and the Yanchep and Yallingup Caves in Western Australia, but the text continually returns to the Blue Mountains for its most detailed examples and discussion, and it is only for the Blue Mountains that Horne provides an account of the development of tourist activity generally as opposed to focussing on particular sites.

Concerned as it is with nineteenth century tourism there are only occasional hints in The Pursuit of Wonder of some of the darker aspects of tourism and environmental management that emerged during the course of the Twentieth Century. Horne opens the book with a brief reflection on the sad fate of Fernshaw (as the name suggests, renowned for its display of tree ferns) in the Dandenong Ranges, and elsewhere we glimpse that even in the nineteenth century the detritus and refuse of tourism were becoming a problem and that battles over competing land use interests were already emerging. On the whole though this is a positive if not triumphal narrative, recalling as it does a time when the interests of science and popular spectacle went hand in hand, and when 'mass' was yet to become permanently wedded to 'tourism'.

With its focus on tourism which consciously engaged with spectacular landscapes that conformed to specific 'imported' ideals -- and Horne does well in describing how difficult it was to make some aspects of Australian landscapes measure up -- The Pursuit of Wonder raises the need for a related study. That is, one which looks at how the types of scenery which are now thought of as quintessentially 'Australian' developed their attraction to tourists. How did we learn to love the Bungle Bungles, adore the Rock and embrace the inland? And where did we find the language and the imagery to describe natural wonders that fell outside our inherited experience of the picturesque?

The Pursuit of Wonder deserves a wide readership amongst not only students of tourism, but also amongst those interested in the wider issue of non-indigenous Australians and their curious relationship with their natural environment. In addition to the author's achievement, some credit is also due to Miegunyah Press, a Melbourne University Press imprint. The Pursuit of Wonder is generously and handsomely illustrated and stylishly designed. Retailing at under forty dollars it provides excellent value.


  • Paul Genoni. 'Review: The Pursuit of Wonder: How Australia's landscape was explored, nature discovered and tourism unleashed by Julia Horne' [online]. Network Review of Books (Perth, Australian Public Intellectual Network), January 2006. Availability: <please cite the web address here> ISSN 1833-0932. [accessed 23 July 2014].

Back Cover Blurb

  • Imagine an Australia before the tour buses and well-trodden bushwalks, a wild and often daunting country that did not easily yield the secrets of its natural beauty.

    Imagine an Australia before the tour buses and well-trodden bushwalks, a wild and often daunting country that did not easily yield the secrets of its natural beauty. Into this landscape early Europeans ventured, 'discovering' nature at its most Romantic-sublime lakes, ancient mountain ranges, awe-inspiring caves and plunging waterfalls. Scenery that is now a familiar part of the Australian landscape-the Blue Mountains and the Jenolan Caves in New South Wales, Lake St Clair in Tasmania and Wilsons Promontory in Victoria, Mount Tamborine in Queensland and Mount Lofty in South Australia-stirred in these visitors a sense of awe.

    The Pursuit of Wonder follows colonial tourists such as Lachlan and Elizabeth Macquarie, Eugen von Guérard and Louisa Atkinson as they rolled up their sleeves or loosened their corsets in pursuit of nature. Imagining herself in their dusty shoes, historian Julia Horne explores the beginnings of environmental tourism, and the influence of European ideas of travel, nature and art on the Australian landscape. She eloquently demonstrates that it was not only the untouched nature of the places these early tourists visited but the visitors' own cultural conditioning that unleashed such a powerful response in them to Australia's rugged beauty, as shown in their travel writings, sketches and paintings.

    Richly illustrated, The Pursuit of Wonder is a celebration of travel in its many rambling, striving, inspiring guises and a revelation of a natural world that we now take for granted. Rediscover the wonder.

Have You Also Read?

  • Charles Conder: the last bohemian

    imageAnn Galbally, Carlton South: The Miegunyah Press, 2002, 310 Pages, Hardcover, Colour Plates, Illus., $49.95
    Reviewed by Julie Ustinoff in the June 2003 issue.

    The understated elegance inherent in the physical presentation of Galbally's, Charles Conder: the last bohemian, aptly reflects the sensitivity and attention to detail she brings to the poignant and often tragic story of one of Australia's (and Europe's) most talented artists. Ann Galbally's biography constructs the life of Charles Conder through a wide range of source material that includes many manuscripts and much archival material sieved from public repositories and private collections across two continents. Most importantly, Galbally's fine knowledge of art and artistic temperament, allows her to better understand the complexities of relationship between the artist, his work, and the ... read more.

Network Review of Books

NRB January 2006

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