Educational Function of Literary Tourism

Samet Çevik (Bandirma Onyedi Eylül Üniversity, Türkiye)

A widespread belief held by many is that education primarily occurs within a classroom setting, even though learning can occur in diverse environments, including while travelling (Stone & Petrick, 2013). Informal touristic learning is a “lifelong process that is mostly incidental and natural” (Kalinowski & Weiler, 1992: 17). Tourism and leisure activities offer unique opportunities for learning that can seamlessly enhance the overall experience, leaving a profound and transformative impact on participants. These personal encounters increase satisfaction and enrich the quality of life (Falk et al., 2012). Stone and Petrick (2013) highlighted that tourism offers experiential and transformative learning opportunities. These theories primarily offer a cohesive view of the processes that enable personal development, emphasising the external environment or educational context (Morgan, 2010). While experiential learning is characterised as “the sense-making process of active engagement between the inner world of the person and the outer world of the environment” (Beard & Wilson, 2006: 2), transformative learning is defined as “the process of bringing about change within a frame of reference” (Mezirow, 1997: 5).

Mitchell (1998) pointed out that tourism types such as ecotourism, heritage tourism, cultural tourism, and special interest tourism have learning and personal growth components. Literary tourism, a niche within cultural and heritage tourism, provides learning and personal growth experiences to literary tourists through its primary offerings, including literary museums, festivals, and destinations. Literary tourists, who typically have higher education levels and social status (Busby & Shetliffe, 2013), are motivated by various factors. These motivations include experiencing literary places, seeking knowledge about authors and literary worlds, better understanding literary works, nostalgia, recreation, participating in literary-related events (exhibitions, festivals, etc.), visiting bookstores, staying in literary hotels, and a desire to add aesthetic value to life (Baleiro, 2022; Baleiro et al., 2022; Bu et al., 2021; Gentile & Brown, 2015). Although many of these motivations are closely tied to education, literary tourism can also offer a range of learning opportunities to tourists engaging in literary tourism activities for enjoyment and leisure without a deliberate learning intention.

One of the primary motivations for literary tourists is to follow in the author's footsteps, and literary museums provide tailored experiences that perfectly cater to this aspiration. Literary museums function as essential archives, preserving and commemorating literature and its authors. They curate diverse items, including books, manuscripts, literary tools, photographs, videos, personal belongings, period artefacts, and replicas, all of which contribute to the rich tapestry of literary heritage (Baleiro, 2023). Authors’ house museums present biographical exhibitions featuring the author’s personal belongings, documents, and manuscripts as historical evidence, serving as a valuable resource for obtaining detailed information about the author and gaining insights into their literary world (Albano, 2007). Besides, these museums can raise awareness about historical, social, cultural, and ideological aspects of a specific era.

The other educational functions of literary museums can be listed as follows (Burgul Adıgüzel, 2017: 214-215): introducing literary culture on a national and international scale; revealing historical facts about literature through documents and objects and passing them on to the future; facilitating comparisons between the changing literary understanding throughout historical processes and the present; supporting visitors to experiment with new literary genres; enhancing the professional knowledge and general culture of literature experts and educators; cultivating an appreciation for literature in all visitors; contributing to the senses, imagination, aesthetic sensibilities, creativity, and critical thinking of visitors and providing lifelong learning opportunities.

Recently, the traditional understanding of literary museums has undergone significant transformations. These museums have shifted to new exhibition formats and interpretation tools through technology. With their libraries, extensive book collections, conference and exhibition halls, literary museums now offer diverse educational activities centred around authors, literary works, and literature as a whole. Furthermore, these museums have embraced more engaging approaches that involve visitor participation, such as courses, reading and discussion groups, online educational programs, the educational use of their websites, and digital storytelling. Considering that one of the primary target audiences of literary museums is student groups and that the museums collaborate continuously with educational institutions, it can be asserted that these innovative and interactive programs effectively enhance the educational function of literary museums by combining entertainment and learning.

Literary festivals represent another valuable resource in literary tourism, where entertainment and learning are seamlessly integrated. The willingness to learn and be informed motivates literary festival tourists to attend, with the expectation of developing knowledge and skills, as these festivals serve as valuable platforms for fostering education, intellectual stimulation, fulfilment, and the growth of cultural capital (Rossetti & Quinn, 2019). According to Robertson and Yeoman (2014), literary festivals cultivate a sense of shared experience, encouraging communication between audiences and guest authors. Participating in literary festivals, which serve as a significant embodiment of cultural capital, addresses individuals’ creative needs and plays a crucial role in accumulating cultural capital. Furthermore, as Rossetti and Quinn (2019) pointed out, literary festivals provide opportunities to express and embody acquired cultural capital in various ways. The impact of literary festivals extends beyond their duration, as attendees retain memories, contemplate, and remain actively involved with the tangible and intangible cultural resources they acquired. As a result, literary festivals offer transformative learning opportunities, providing enriching and fulfilling experiences that contribute to personal self-improvement.

Literary tourism products provided at specific destinations offer tourists valuable learning experiences. Literary trails, created by these destinations to provide information and educational opportunities and serve as a place marketing tool, play a significant role in facilitating experiential learning within the realm of literary tourism. Destinations have the option to develop biographical trails, literary landscape trails, or generic literary trails. Although all three types of literary trails have an educational function, biographical trails offer literary tourists a more profound and immersive educational experience as they delve into the author’s life and literary achievements in greater detail. Local authorities create generic literary trails to enhance awareness about the literary aspects of a region and offer insights into its literary reputation, thereby transforming them into educational routes. Literary landscape trails connect the areas, locations, and landscapes used as settings by authors in their works, providing experiences related to the literary works, characters, and themes. These trails are particularly intriguing, captivating and entertaining for literary tourists whose primary motivation for travelling is their fascination with fictional literary works (MacLeod et al., 2009). However, these trails also serve an educational role. Literary tourists can re-experience the literary works along these trails, gaining a better understanding of them, which represents the educational function of literary tourism (Baleiro et al., 2022).

As a sub-niche, dark literary tourism locations offered in destinations can provide experiences that lead to learning for literary tourists. The motivations behind dark literary tourism are primarily driven by educational reasons through literature and related texts such as the desire to establish a connection with the author and pay homage to them and the interest in gaining a better understanding of historical details. Through their experiences, dark literary tourists can develop a more profound familiarity with authors, grasp their circumstances, empathise with them, and even embark on an inner journey by reflecting on their own lives and pasts (Çevik, 2022). Within this framework, it can be asserted that the encounters encompassed by dark literary tourism serve an educational function, leading to transformative learning for the tourists.

Regarding the educational function of literary tourism activities in destinations, it is crucial to highlight the significance of the UNESCO City of Literature award. This prestigious accolade aims to integrate international promotion with the enrichment of local literary heritage, as well as the promotion of literary creation, reading habits, and award systems (Mulero & Rius-Ulldemolins, 2017). This esteemed designation emphasizes the educational function of literary tourism in many aspects. Literary tourists visiting these cities can immerse themselves in a rich celebration of both local and global literature, engage in diverse literary events covering various genres, and culminate their journey with valuable literary experiences gained from the city’s libraries, bookstores, and cultural centres (Quinteiro & Busby, 2022).

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

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