Literary Tourism Product

Jordi Arcos-Pumarola (CETT Barcelona School of Tourism, Hospitality and Gastronomy, University of Barcelona, Spain)

Literary places have their raison d'être in the link they have with literature; either in relation to the authors’ biographies or with the fictional world posed by the literary works (Hoppen et al., 2014). In this sense, literary places are situated in the gaze of the literary tourist only in this dialogical way, that is, literary places do not stand out thanks to their objective conditions, but their idiosyncrasy arises from a relationship with an intangible layer of meaning and, therefore, they are not identifiable at a glance. It is only through the relational nature that the place becomes a meaningful space (Osácar-Marzal & Arcos-Pumarola, 2021).

This implies that these literary places remain invisible to a gaze unaware of the layer of meaning created by literature in a territory. In this sense, it is necessary to mark or enhance these spaces in order to raise literary awareness. Thus, these literary locations become places of interest for the potential visitor with literary interests. The way to make these spaces visible, or to highlight these places to the tourist gaze, is through the creation of tourist products that are capable of making them identifiable, contextualising them and turning them into accessible spaces for tourist visits. In this way, tourism is a strategy for making literary heritage visible and giving value to it, which must be developed in a way that is coherent with the content, values and literary outlook of each specific literary heritage.

One of the main cultural tourism products used to make a particular literary heritage visible and to highlight it are the literary house museums (Arcos-Pumarola & Conill Tetuà, 2017). These spaces are located in places where a particular literary author has a clear biographical relationship; whether it is their birthplace, as in the case of Shakespeare's Birthplace; an important place of residence during their biography, as in the case of Miguel de Unamuno's House Museum in Salamanca, where he lived during his time as rector of the University of Salamanca; or their place of death, as in the case of the MUHBA Vil·la Joana, a house museum dedicated to the Catalan poet Jacint Verdaguer in Barcelona. However, we can also find literary museum houses with which the authors had a much more fleeting relationship, as is the case of Casa di Goethe in Rome, where the German author lived for less than two years, but which is still a place of attraction for those interested in the poet.

These spaces offer a value proposition based on literary authors’ biographies and can be considered a gateway to their work (Strepetova & Arcos-Pumarola, 2020), not only from an intellectual or academic point of view, but also insofar as these spaces allow access to the authors' intimacy (MacLeod, 2020). In this way, literary house museums have a double objective: on the one hand, to make the author's preserved work known and disseminated and, on the other hand, to be the guardians of a certain authenticity linked to the author's intimate and creative context, thus being spaces of authenticity. This double objective implies that the museographic proposals of these facilities are very diverse, ranging from the absolute conservation of the spaces almost as if the author was still alive, where the scenography is the core of the exhibition, to exhibitions where transmission of information is the main goal. An example of this latter type of literary house museum is the Maison Rousseau et Littérature in Geneva, which, despite being located in the philosopher's birthplace, presents an exhibition that is closer to an interpretation centre than to a traditional house museum.

Around the literary house museums, which concentrate on building a space for discovering and approaching a specific author, there is a whole cultural landscape endowed with meaning through literature. This literary landscape can be linked to the biography of an author or literary movement or be generated by virtue of the location and references to the landscape that can be found in literary works. From the structuring of this literary landscape with the aim of making it comprehensible, accessible and visitable, we, therefore, find a series of literary tourism products that can be included as toponymic proposals, in the sense that we endow a geography with markers and meanings to turn the territory into a tourist product (Squire, 1991).

In this case, toponymic proposals can also be defined as literary routes, which can have a multitude of formats. From the traditional guided tours in which a tourism professional is in charge of interpreting the literary places; to the printed format, in which the visitor circulates and locates themselves in the literary landscape thanks to the information they find in a tourist map, a book, brochures, etc.; or the use of signposting in the territory. In recent years, the proliferation of digital cartography for creating self-guided literary routes has been noteworthy (Arcos-Pumarola et al., 2022). This resource is helpful because geolocation, the use of multiple sources of information, the possibility of filtering and prioritising themes and the possibility of gamifying literary routes make mobile devices ideal tools for the autonomous discovery of the literary landscape.

Finally, as a complement to the biographical and toponymic proposals, we find a diversity of literary tourism proposals based on a multiplicity of motifs and formats. This last group can be called thematic proposals and include, on the one hand, festivities that become literary festivals with enough relevance to be a tourist attraction per se, such as Bloomsday in Ireland, Burns Night in Scotland or Sant Jordi in Catalonia (Lemos, 2020; Osácar-Marzal & Arcos-Pumarola, 2021). On the other hand, cultural proposals that are based on literature to singularise and culturally dynamise a territory. In this sense book towns are worth mentioning. More concretely, the example of Montolieu as a book town understanding literature from a holistic point of view and including the arts related to the book is, in this sense, paradigmatic (Driscoll, 2018; Merfeld-Langston, 2013).

To conclude, these are the main literary tourism products that make it possible to enhance the value of literary places and generate spaces, dynamics and contexts where literature is mobilised to become a cultural tourist attraction. Whether these literary tourism products can be of interest to a non-specialised public depends on many factors, such as, for example, the fame and interest of the author. However, a didactic approach to literary places should allow them to transcend a specialised public and have a social and educational function.

How to cite this dictionary entry: Arcos-Pumarola, J. (2023). Literary Tourism Product. In Baleiro, R., Capecchi, G., & Arcos-Pumarola, J. (Orgs.). E-Dictionary of Literary Tourism. University for Foreigners of Perugia.

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  • Arcos-Pumarola, J., Imbert-Bouchard Ribera, D. & Guitart Casalderrey, N. (2022). Evaluating the use of digital cartography to showcase the intangible heritage. In R. Baleiro & R. Pereira (Eds.), Global perspectives on literary tourism and film-induced tourism, 163–183. IGI Global.
  • Driscoll, B. (2018). Local places and cultural distinction: The booktown model. European Journal of Cultural Studies, 21(4), 401–417.
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  • Strepetova, M. & Arcos-Pumarola, J. (2020). Literary heritage in museum exhibitions: Identifying its main challenges in the European context. Muzeologia a Kulturne Dedicstvo, 8(3).