Literary Trails: A Chance for Heritage or just the Disneyfication of Cityscapes?

Activity: Talk or presentationConference PresentationsResearch

Anja Saretzki - Speaker

The look at the websites of tourist information offices of a lot of cities recently shows a new trend under the heading of city tours: walking tours on the trail of a novel, so-called literary trails. The city is to be explored on the trail of a fictional character. Tourist offices develop a route for visiting the settings of a novel and so to bring the plot to life. In historic novels (such as „The Shadow of the Wind“ by Carlos Ruiz Zafrón or „The Cathedral of the Sea“ by Ildefonso Falcones in Barcelona or „The Heretic“ by Miguel Delibes in Valladolid) or novels drawing intensely on history (such as „The Da Vinci Code“ by Dan Brown) historic sites become interlinked from a new perspective. Unlike the tourist marketing of classical routes like the Silk Road or the Way of St. James literary trails are initially an invention for tourists. However, tourists follow these trails like neo-pilgrims.
The circuit of culture by Hall et al. can be used to describe these relationships. Heritage manifests itself not just in traditional local practices but is also formed in the global space of discourses. Heritage as a traditional practice is encoded on specific local conditions. These encodings can be stabilized in global discourses (e.g. in discourses on the novel or the movie version of the novel) but can be externalized as well. Externalized heritage is disembedded from its traditional framing, it lost its original meaning. However, it becomes decoded on new conditions and is dynamized by tourist practices. The question is which kind of reading the heritage turns out to be the dominant one. The result is due to social forces backing up the articulation of different meanings and enforce them.
With regard to the city and its heritage the invention of literary trails can be considered from two different perspectives, which should be discussed with the help of the above-named novels. On the one hand a city gets the chance to promote ist heritage in reference to the novel. This is especially true for cities like Valladolid, who are no hot spots on the map of international tourism. These cities gain new possibilities of marketing. Within the framework of a literary trail global discourses contribute stabilizing traditional encodings. On the other hand this kind of marketing implies an intensified disneyfication of cityscapes and also a commodification of heritage. A new meaning is ascribed to cityscapes by way of a literarily implicated theming, a theming that orient itself to a lesser extent towards historical facts but more to literarily fiction. Discourses on „The Da Vinci Code“ and the containing conspiracy theories may substantiate this. In this case, heritage is going to be externalized and the city’s history becomes a distory, a disneyfied history.


International Conference "Tourism, Roads and Cultural Itineraries: Meaning, Memory and Development" 2012


Québec, Canada

Event: Conference