Sublime Consumption: German Nature Tourism from Romanticism to Ecotourism, 1850-2000


ACLS Fellowship Program




This project provides an environmental and cultural history of nature tourism in German-speaking Central Europe from the heyday of popular Rhine Romanticism in the mid-nineteenth century to the emergence of ecotourism in the 1990s. Using Thorstein Veblen's seminal work on "conspicuous consumption" as its starting point, the study analyzes the ecological consequences and environmental meaning of Germans' taste for sublime nature, especially as nature appreciation shifted from a symbol of bourgeois privilege into a right of the masses. Though such democratization of leisure commercialized the experience of nature, it helped to create a popular constituency for environmental reform by making ordinary citizens aware of the effects of urbanization on the countryside and abroad.