Master of Arts (MA)


Communication Studies

Document Type



This is an ethnographic study of tourism at Walden Pond in Concord, Massachusetts. I argue that Walden Pond operates as a site that creates tensions among visitors due to the ways that time has transformed the once serene landscape into an overcrowded swimming pool. These tensions, however, fall under the expectation that the State Reservation of Massachusetts (re)creates Thoreau’s Walden as suggested in his discourse, but the performance of history is enacted through the creation of meaning among visitors engaging in a dialogue that references the past, talking about a space that has cultural significance. Exploring the touristic experience and the rhetorical performance of Walden Pond as a sublime body of nature, I wanted to see how the performance of tourism was manifesting itself in the gaze of tourists and what they could teach us about tourism. My technique involved a process of close observation, learning about people’s lives, and constructively listening to their perspectives. I first offer an introduction to my study in the first chapter, and then owing the history of Walden Pond to the second chapter in order to provide a context for the social evolution of the site into the twenty-first century. In chapter three I then discuss the tour itself and markers of the pond, including the Thoreau house replica, fence, signs, the embodiment of walking, and the actual house site. Chapter 4 examines the visitors’ perspectives on: Walden Pond as a sacred location, the house site, a place of nature, and authenticity. By understanding Walden Pond as a representation of itself and as a space to talk about the past, we begin to see less problems, dissatisfaction, and ambivalence that are connected to all the reasons that I list throughout the study, and more performances of history unfolding at the tourist attraction.



Document Availability at the Time of Submission

Release the entire work immediately for access worldwide.

Committee Chair

Michael Bowman



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Communication Commons