rEvEriES of thE Solitary walkEr
n this book, I have argued that early travelogue films should be seen as a
new form of sensory experience encountered by a diverse range of early
moviegoers. I have suggested that travelogues provided a space for poetic
reverie in the motion picture theater, encouraging viewers to move beyond
their everyday conceptions of dwelling and selfhood and enabling spectators
to envision new horizons of experience. Early travel films were a relatively
open- ended experience, appearing at unpredictable places in the disjunctive
variety format of the nickelodeon theater. Unlike illustrated travel lectures,
and also unlike travel films with synchronized sound, travelogues from the
early cinema period were freed from the guidance of a narrating voice. As
I have argued, this lack of a narrator figure opened up a space in which the
spectator could envision herself as the One Who Travels, and in which she
might project her own fantasies, desires, or resistances.
Travelogues persisted on commercial cinema screens for many decades,
but much of this unbounded quality was shut down as the film industry
changed. Travelogues continued to be shown before the main feature in
movie houses from the late 1910s until well into the 1950s. The genre re-
mained formulaic, but there were several significant changes soon after the
nickelodeon era. These institutional changes—production in a series, voice-
over narration—underscore the singularity of the travelogue experience in
the first two decades of cinema. During the nickelodeon era, travelogues had
been produced in an ad hoc manner as the camera operator traveled; the
films were then shipped back to the production company for individual re-
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