Living the Literature: Performing Literary Places

Authors: Alana Seaman*, University of North Carolina - Wilmington
Topics: Tourism Geography, Cultural Geography, United States
Keywords: Literature, Tourism, Culture, Literary Tourism, Tourist Performance
Session Type: Poster
Day: 4/12/2018
Start / End Time: 10:00 AM / 11:40 AM
Room: Napoleon Foyer/Common St. Corridor, Sheraton, 3rd Floor
Presentation File: No File Uploaded


People travel far and wide to live out the scenes described in their favorite novels. In response, many destinations have begun offering tourists opportunities to participate in “literary experiences” in places associated with books and the authors who penned them. From tea with Mr. Darcy in Bath; haunted hayrides, cemetery tours, and Jack O’Lantern festivals in Sleepy Hollow; and even spending a year in Provence drinking wine and eating cheese, literature contributes not only to how people conceive of places, but also how they engage with those places. Yet, while many aspects of literary tourism have been considered, the phenomenon remains heavily theorized and few, if any, empirical studies have examined how literature influences specific tourist behaviors in literary locations. Using Goffman’s theory of social performance, this study explores how the social construction of place, as influenced by literature, inspires tourists to participate in site-specific activities described in related texts. A multi-case study methodology was utilized wherein events at three literary festivals across the United States were examined in depth. Data was collected from the analysis of artifacts, documentation, and archival resources, as well as on-site participatory observations, and in-depth interviews. Findings illustrate how literature works to bind place and performance, in turn impelling participation; highlights factors motivating participation; and suggests that a deep relationship exists between literature, place, and personal identity.

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