UBC Theses and Dissertations

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UBC Theses and Dissertations

The presentation of landscape: rhetorical conventions and the promotion of tourism in British Columbia, 1900-1990 Nelson, Ronald Ross


This thesis argues that landscapes are products of language, that the meaning of a landscape depends upon how it is presented and interpreted in the course of human communication. It is also argued that the field of rhetoric—as a body of theory, ideas, and methods for interpreting the persuasive use of language—can assist human geographers in their attempts to interpret landscapes. These positions are put to work in a study of the promotion of tourist landscapes by the British Columbia government. Two time periods are examined: first, presentations of landscape during the 1920s and 1930s, and second the 1970s and 1980s. These periods are similar in that they are periods of transition—periods in which the tourism industry underwent significant change. The first period is associated with the development of mass tourism, and specifically with the emergence of the state as a major player in the tourist industry. The second period concerns the recent development of postmodern (alternative environmental and cultural) tourism. Postmodern tourism is characterized by the rejection of mass tourism and by the quest for real places and experiences. The thesis uses both qualitative and quantitative (computer-assisted content analysis) methods to examine how the state has rhetorically responded to these changes in its presentations of landscape. Changes are found in both periods, but they are gradual and incomplete. It is consequently argued that the state’s character as an author limits its audience and the strategies it may use for presenting tourist landscapes.

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