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«Worlds of Wonder: National Parks, Zoos, Disney, and the Genealogies of Wonder in U.S. Culture By Geneviève Ardouin Creedon A dissertation submitted ...»

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Worlds of Wonder:

National Parks, Zoos, Disney, and the Genealogies of Wonder in U.S. Culture


Geneviève Ardouin Creedon

A dissertation submitted in partial fulfillment

of the requirements of the degree of

Doctor of Philosophy

(Comparative Literature)

in the University of Michigan

Doctoral Committee:

Professor June M. Howard, Co-Chair

Professor Peggy S. McCracken, Co-Chair

Professor Philip J. Deloria

Professor Vassilios Lambropoulos Professor Patricia Smith Yaeger (Deceased) © Geneviève Ardouin Creedon For Patsy, a.k.a. Tank.

ii Acknowledgements The thinking, research, and writing that have gone into this dissertation were made possible with the help and support of amazing and generous friends, faculty, colleagues, and family. My time at the University of Michigan and my dissertation research have been generously funded by the Rackham Graduate School’s Rackham Merit Fellowship, Predoctoral Fellowship, Centennial Spring-Summer Fellowship, and Research Grants. Bowdoin College’s graduate scholarships for alumni have generously supplemented this funding for five of my six years at Michigan. In addition to offering me a vibrant and generous intellectual community, the Department of Comparative Literature provided teaching and additional funds to support my archival and site-based research.

I am grateful to a range of University of Michigan faculty with whom I had early and important conversations that set me on my research path: Victoria Johnson, Scotti Parrish, Zeynep Gursel. Courses I took with Kader Konuk, Paul Anderson, Judith Roof, Peggy McCracken, Dorceta Taylor, David Doris, and Jay Cooke helped me navigate the multidisciplinary terrains this project traverses. Catherine Brown and Ruth Tsoffar have been deeply supportive of me and my work over the past six years. Catherine allowed me to use her office for the 2013-14 academic year, a gift that is responsible for my being able to finish the dissertation this year.

iii I owe thanks to Dave Ehrlinger, who first put me in touch with Deb Zureik, the keeper of the Cincinnati Zoo archives, where many parts of this project first took root in the summer of 2010. Deb generously allowed me to sit in her office and sift through filing cabinet upon filing cabinet of over a century of zoo materials. She also provided me with copies of the zoo’s earliest guidebooks in English translation. In Cincinnati as well, the fine folks at the Cincinnati History Library and Archives also helped launch my investigations in zoo history.

In 2012, a research trip that began in Chicago, and took me to St. Paul, Yellowstone National Park, Missoula, Seattle, San Francisco, Yosemite National Park, Anaheim, San Diego, Albuquerque, and St. Louis indebted me to many other research institutions: the Minnesota Historical Society, which houses the Northern Pacific Railroad archives, the Yellowstone National Park Research Library (especially Anne Foster, Jackie Jerla, and Jessica Gerdes), the Maureen and Mike Mansfield Library at the University of Montana, Missoula, Seattle’s Woodland Park Zoo, the Walt Disney Family Museum, the Yosemite Museum and Research Library, Disneyland and Disney California Adventure, the San Diego Zoo and Safari Park, the St. Louis Zoo, and the Detroit Zoo.

These travels were facilitated by many kind hosts, who made the days in the archive far more pleasurable. In addition to being a source of invaluable professional and personal wisdom, Jane Winston has routinely provided a bed, food, and an attentive, critical ear. Doug, Beth, Conlan, Claire, Chris, and Hercules Creedon opened their home—and much more—to me in Rochester, MN, giving me a base for a crucial part of my archival work. Rod Creedon, similarly, offered me a place to stay, his lovely sense of

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accompanied me to the Pittsburgh Zoo and is always an all-around awesome cuz. Myra Creedon has given me a place to stay and unconditional loving support on my way to and from many different places and projects.

My parents, John and Diane Creedon, and their connections to Disney and Marty Sklar, in particular, not only made my research in Disney’s parks possible, but contributed in innumerable ways to my thinking and writing about environments, language, and literature. My father’s role in creating the now defunct “Wonders of Life” MetLife pavilion at EPCOT Center was, I am sure, in my subconscious as this project took shape. That personal history and my relationship with my father, in particular, have inspired my intellectual life and this project’s trajectory in more ways that I could ever account for.

At various points, friends and colleagues have accompanied me on research trips to theme parks and zoos. M’Lis Bartlett, Shannon Winston, Kristin Hernandez, and Kristin Kvernland allowed me to see things through another pair of eyes at crucial points in the project. My writing has benefited from the meticulous, thoughtful input of many friends and colleagues along the way. The Mellon Summer Dissertation Seminar was valuable as I wrote chapter two. Bill Paulson, Cat Cassel, Sarah Linwick, and Clara Bosak-Shroeder, in particular, gave me extensive comments on early drafts. Liz Harmon, Frank Kelderman, and Shannon Winston were a dream-team writing group in my final year at Michigan. They generously sifted through several versions of early drafts of chapter three and helped me get a grasp on what seemed like a huge mess at the time. In the home stretch, Richard Pierre, M’Lis Bartlett, and Shannon Winston each read one of

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They are the best of friends, colleagues, and interlocutors.

Nancy Harris, Paula Frank, and Judy Gray are the superheroes of the Department of Comparative Literature. They ensure that the place runs, that we students get what we need, and that everyone does what he or she is supposed to do. It would be impossible to over-state their importance to any graduate student’s experience, but over the course of my time at Michigan, they have been invaluable resources, impromptu advisors, and kind friends. It is difficult to imagine day-to-day life without them. This duckling will miss Mama Duck tremendously.

For their intellectual and emotional support and solidarity throughout graduate school, I will forever be grateful to M’Lis Bartlett, Richard Pierre, Anna Pierre, Shannon Winston, Jessica Moorman, Rostom Mesli, Basak Candar, Chris Meade, Michael Pifer, and Melissa Gelinas, among others. Without the wisdom, patience, love, and encouragement of Liz Muther, I would never have made it to graduate school in the first place. She and several other current and former Bowdoin faculty and friends—Kristen Ghodsee, Mary Agnes Edsall, Kathleen O’Connor, David Collings, and Joanna Bossee— have modeled true intellectual generosity and nurturing that will fuel my research and writing for a long time to come.

My partners-in-crime and significant others, Shannon, Tye, and Lynkn have kept me reasonably sane and warmly cared for throughout this journey. I often say that I would not have gotten through graduate school without my dogs, Tye and Lynkn (and their amazing caretaker-groomer and friend Amy Samida). They forced me to keep perspective, take breaks, get out into the world, and look around. I am also fairly certain

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never have come to this project at all. To Shannon I owe much more than I can articulate here, so suffice it to say that this journey has been far better for her presence, partnership, and participation in it.

I have been unbelievably lucky to have a dream team dissertation committee. I am grateful to all of the members of my committee, who have been more supportive and generous with time, feedback, and support than I could ever have asked for. Although the shortcomings of this dissertation are my own, its strengths I owe to my committee’s advice and input. Vassilis Lambropoulos, Patsy Yaeger, and Peggy McCracken, who have been on board from the beginning, gave me the right balance of structure and freedom when I had no idea what I was doing and facilitated my landing in a project that has allowed me to identify my intellectual and professional commitments and produce scholarship that I both care about and find interesting, even now. They have consistently asked challenging questions and pushed me to become a better thinker and writer.

From the time I stepped into Vassilis’s “Close Reading” course in my first semester, he has been a staunch supporter, kind and generous advisor, and a phenomenal interlocutor. Patsy’s work and her expansive intellectual capacities have been gifts to me over the past five years. She had no reason to take me on as a student when I showed up, somewhat aimless, in her office for the first time, yet true to her intellectual and personal generosity, she offered to serve on my committee on the spot. Since then, her hard questions, vibrant intellect, and luminous presence have infused my thinking and my work. Patsy’s meticulous close readings of my chapters made me a better editor of my own work. She stuck with me and my project to the end, and I will miss her sorely.

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less crucial. I am grateful to Phil for giving me the opportunity to work with him in “22 Ways to Think about Food” in the fall of 2011. Watching him in the classroom made me a better teacher, just as reading his work and talking with him have made me a better writer and scholar. Despite being one of the busiest people I know, Phil has always been generous with his time and support. I could not ask for a better model of academic integrity and mentorship.

My co-chair June Howard signed on to my project at a transitional time for me and for the project. Since that time, she has often given me hours of her time in conversation and pages of commentary on my drafts. Her attention to the demands of rigorous historical readings, the importance of laying out the contours of different disciplinary conversations, and the movements of an argument have made me a much better and more attentive interdisciplinary scholar.

Finally, there has not been a day of my graduate career when I have not thanked my lucky stars for Peggy McCracken. She has been the smartest and most reliable of cochairs, mentors, and friends. She agreed to chair my committee early on, before I had landed in a field. When I did land in a project whose focus was centuries later than her own specialization, she not only stayed on as co-chair; she continued to be the closest, most intelligent reader of my work I am ever likely to find. The summer I wrote my prospectus, I had knee surgery and sat at home struggling to define the project. Peggy brought me bags of ice and a crucial critical eye. She has challenged me both personally and intellectually to grow in ways I might never have grown without her guidance. She has shown me over and over again what intellectual community is, reminded me of my

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of friendship and forgiveness. In working with her over the past six years, I have not only become a better scholar; I have become a better person. I could not have invented a more incisive, creative, thoughtful, caring, and all around magnificent advisor, whom I feel privileged to call a friend. I would not have made it through grad school, much less the dissertation, without Peggy. She is—and always will be—queen of the world in my book.

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List of Figures

List of Tables


Introduction In Search of Wonder: Histories and Geographies of Wonder in the United States.............1 I. Surveying the Territory: Wonder Scholarship

II. Setting Out: Materials and Methods

III. Drawing Boundaries: Definitions and Contours

IV. Project Map: Chapter Overview

Chapter One Traveling Wonders: Travel, Rhetoric, and the Making of an Experience Economy.........41 I. Situating Wonder in the Nineteenth-Century U.S.

II. Seeking a Vocabulary: Wonder and the Struggle to Describe the West............80 III. Imagining Wonderscapes: Landscape, Narrative, and Fantasy

IV. Gold and Beyond: Californian Wonders

V. Tourist Wonders

VI. Wondering Science: Marking Out Wonder-land

VII. From Wonder to Wonderland: Branding Yellowstone

VIII. Wonder Nation: Experiential Capital and Citizenship

Chapter Two Pedestrian Wonders: Zoos’ Affective Collections

I. Heading Out

II. Parking, or Getting Situated

x III. Entering the Park

IV. Habitats, or the Wild Revolution

Discovery Outpost: Zoos’ (Affective) Collectives


VI. The Great Bear Wilderness, or Nostalgic Wonder

VII. Before Brookfield: Bison, the Bronx, and Wonder

VIII. Paver Pathway: the Delight of Mnemonic Wonders

IX. The Rainforest, Wonder, Dread, and the Trouble with Wilderness.................. 226 X. Tiger Terrace: Spectacular Wonder

XI. The Gift Shop: Capitalizing (on) Wonder

Chapter Three (Re-)Animated Wonders: Disney’s Techno-natural “Movies, Magic, and More”..........262 “World of Color”: Openings


II. Revised Trajectories: California Adventure and Disneyland

“World of Color”: Re-animating The Little Mermaid


Flashback Interlude: Disney’s Naturalism


“World of Color”: Finding Nemo’s Transitional Trajectories


Flashback Interlude: Disney’s Miniatures


“World of Color”: WALL-E and Toy Story


VIII. Flashback Interlude: Silly Symphonies

“World of Color”: Aladdin Re-Defining the “Disney Story”


Flashback Interlude: Riding Nature’s Wonderlands


“World of Color”: Pocahontas and Anti-Colonial Wonder


XII. Flashback Interlude: Electric Wonders

“World of Color”: Color and the Dark Violence of Wonder


XIV. Flashback Interlude: the Yosemite Firefall

“World of Color”: Finale


XVI. Coda: Disney’s Techno-nature$

Conclusion The Whale in the Room: Wonder, Waste, and Environmental Imagination



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Figure 2.4.

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