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Durham University

Department of Geography

Departmental Research Projects

Publication details

book coverCrang, M. Placing Jane Austen, displacing England touring between book, history and nation. In: Pucci, S. & Thompson, J. Jane Austen and Co. remaking the past in contemporary culture. New York: State University of New York Press; 2003:111-132.

Author(s) from Durham


In this essay I want to think through the popularity of Austen by linking her work to two sets of places. The first is the imagined geographies produced through the text, or perhaps more accurately through its reading, which speak of a vanished English society. The second is the present geographies of tourists who visit Austen-themed places in contemporary England. The juxtaposition of these imagined cartographies raises three issues that this essay tries to unpack. First, a nostalgic geography of a lost English society which has a specific appeal and specific political implications. Second, the effect of this imagined landscape on the reshaping and marketing of the current landscape as a tourist product. Third, the need to then interpret that tourism as part of a disseminated practice of reading--where the action of reading is to connect disparate worlds from the text to home, to tourism and so forth. To coin a phrase, this essay discusses the worldliness of the text and the textuality of the world. It considers the geo-graphy of reading Austen as literally writing the world. I want though to suggest that doing so reframes both the conception of the world used in tourism and of writing in literary studies.
This essay is less concerned with interpreting Austen’s works than engaging in what we might call reading at a distance. That is, I am more interested in what others actively make of her writings than in the writings themselves. It is not a matter of assessing how well Austen depicts a place, nor how accurately her fictive places are mapped onto supposed inspirational sites, nor for that matter of how well readers and visitors can recall and understand her work. It is not about the accuracy of any of these representations. Rather, it is about interpreting reading and visiting as doing, as shaping real and imagined landscapes--creating what J. Hillis Miller has called “atopical space” or, as James Donald glosses that, space which is “less the already existing setting for such stories, than the production of space through that taking place, through the act of narration.” The production of space in this manner involves two issues: first, it avoids creating an assumed reading, where the interpretations and actions of readers are drawn from immanent patterns in the text; second, it means that judgements about what is “authentic” do not stand above the practices of reading but are part of the currency within them. What it focuses upon is how Austen’s work is appropriated and circulated to produce senses of “hereness,” which inscribe identities into places. To illustrate this I begin with critiques of Austen-mania as part of a “heritage industry” in the UK, that suggest her work is used to sustain a reactionary and deeply conservative vision of Englishness. I then want to examine literary tourism as a practice by which key texts are mapped onto what becomes or is transformed into a mythical landscape. However, I suggest we move from metaphors of textualised landscapes to ideas of reading practices which open up a pluralised version of the geographies created. I thus try to suggest a disseminated landscape comprising different, multiple places and times of reading, and multiple stories told by the linking between times and places.


1 I am aware here of Sharp’s recent criticism of not only traditional geography mining literature for commentaries about places, but equally of critical geography treating literature just as a cultural product.
She argues cogently for a sense of authorial voice and textual structure to be a focus, to look at how novels shape textual landscapes, which I address in my essay. However, I also wish to add a concern with how those novels are read. J. Sharpe, “Towards a critical analysis of fictive geographies,” Area 32.3 (2000):
2 J. Hillis Miller, Topographies (Stanford, CA.: Stanford University Press, 1995), 7, and J. Donald, “This, Here, Now: Imagining the Modern City,” in S. Westwood and J. Williams, eds., Imagining Cities: Scripts, Signs, Memory (London: Routledge, 1997), 183.
3 R. Rosaldo, “Imperialist Nostalgia,” Representations 26 (Spring
1989): 107-22.
4 One of the highlights of a series on race in England was to see a senior right-wing politician cheerily inform the (black) presenter that, while they were both British, only he was English. Darcus Howe, White Tribe, 2000, Channel 4.
5 P. Wright, On Living in an Old Country: The National Past in Contemporary Britain (London: Verso, 1985).
6 K. Walsh, The Representation of the Past in the Present: Museums and Heritage in a Post-Modern World
(London: Routledge, 1992).
7 R. Shields, Places on the Margin: Alternative Geographies of Modernity
(London: Routledge, 1991).
8 For a map of locations of scenes in the novels, see D. Herbert, “Place and Society in Jane Austen’s England,” Geography 76 (1991): 206.
9 E. Said, Culture and Imperialism, London, Vintage Books, 1993), 100-16.
10 Post-structuralist readings have also seen this as a deliberate ironic critique of social relations, in which Austen uses the relations of property implied in slavery to undermine Sir Thomas--for instance, in the “dead silence” of the response to questions on the plantation. See for instance M. Ferguson, “Mansfield Park:
Slavery, Colonialism & Gender,” Oxford Literary Review 13.1-2 (1991):
118-38. My point is not whether
Austen is culpable in some way but rather how she is read by the population at large.
11 Recent work, for instance, suggests that we need some caution regarding claims that Mansfield Park would not have been possible without the slave trade--in terms of how common sugar plantation holdings were, or rather were not, in Northamptonshire, but even in terms of detailed analysis of the likely scales of investments, working from figures in Austen’s text itself, which relate income to dowry sizes. See the painstaking calculations in T. Lloyd, “Myths of the Indies: Jane Austen and the British Empire,”
Comparative Criticism 21 (1999): 59-78.
12 C. Sussman, “Women and the Politics of Sugar, 1792,”
Representations 48 (Fall 1994): 48-69. While less clear in Austen, the high Victorian, nationalist and heroic epic poetry of Felicia Hemans stressed again an “assumption of an intrinsic connection between the values of domestic sanctity and of imperial domination.”
See T. Lootens, “Hemans and Home: Victorianism, Feminine ‘Internal Enemies,’ and the Domestication of National Identity,” Publications of the Modern Language Association of America, 109.2 (1994): 238-53.
13 S. Hall, “Old and New Identities, Old and New Ethnicities,” in A.
King, ed. Culture, Globalization and
the World System (Basingstoke: Macmillan, 1991), 48-49.
14 Herbert, 200.
15 E. Cromley, “Public History & Historic Preservation Districts,” in J. Blatti, ed., Past Meets Present:
Essays About Historic Interpretation and Public Audiences (Washington, D.
C., Smithsonian Institute
Press, 1987), 30-36; D. Lowenthal, “The Timeless Past: Some Anglo-American Historical Preconceptions,”
Journal of American History 75.4 (1989): 1263-80; D. Lowenthal, “British National Identity and the English Landscape,” Rural History 2.2 (1991): 205-30.
16 Rosaldo, 116.
17 S. Fraiman, “Jane Austen and Edward Said: Gender, Culture and Imperialism,” Critical Inquiry 21
(1995): 809-10. It has to be said that this essay turns on a close reading suggesting that the phrase “If tenderness were ever wanting” (at Mansfield Park) is meant to convey to the reader that indeed it often was, and thus align it with the ensuing tumult described for Portsmouth.
18 M. Batey, Jane Austen and the English Landscape (London: Barn Elms, 1996), 8.
19 The Romantic movement itself has informed and been linked to literary tourism in the Lake District. See S. Squire, “Wordsworth and Lake District Tourism: Romantic Reshaping of the Landscape,” Canadian Geographer 32.3 (1988): 237-47.
20 T. Williamson, Polite Landscapes: Garden and Society in Eighteenth-Century England (Baltimore:
Hopkins University Press, 1995), 102.
21 See S. Morgan, “Adoring the Girl Next Door: Geography in Austen,”
Persuasions On-line 21.1 np,
22 Though we might see this as a recuperative gesture wherein a naval meritocratic Austen played out a criticism of regency politics by making “imperial war the arena in which the gentry could rediscover the manly authority necessary to govern effectively.” T. Fulford makes this point in “Romaniticizing the
The Naval Heroes of Southey, Coleridge, Austen, and Marryat,” Modern Languages Quarterly 60.2 (1999):
186. Fraiman also points to the naval characters and brings in the provincialism of the colonial core (814); see also K. Kuwahara, “Sanditon, Empire and the Sea: Circles of Influence, Wheels of Power,”
19 (1997): 144-48, for an argument that the instability posed by these outside forces seems to be finally overwhelming Austen’s last, albeit unfinished, work.
23 E. Mullan, “Fanny’s Novel Predicament,” The Guardian, March 2, 2000.
24 J. Ezard, “Empire Show Arouses Pride and Prejudice,” The Guardian, August 23, 1999.
25 Fraiman, 806.
26 J. Ezard, “Britannia Rules are Waived,” The Guardian, August 7,
2000: 9.
27 See for instance the early work of H. C. Darby, “The Regional Geography of Thomas Hardy’s Wessex,”
Geographical Review 38 (1948): 426-43.
28 See the different mobilisations of landscape in J. Johnson, “Literary
Geography: Joyce, Woolf and the
city,” City 4.2 (2000): 199-214.
29 R. Riley, D. Baker and C. Van Doren, “Movie Induced Tourism,”
Annals of Tourism Research 25.4
(1998): 920; see also D. Hardy, “Historical Geography and Heritage Studies,” Area 20.4 (1988): 333-38.
The ubiquity of this tactic is such that ironic postcards in the Lake District show a house with a plaque bearing the inscription “This house has absolutely nothing to do with Wordsworth” (R. Dilley, “Wordsworth and the Lake District: A Reply,” The Canadian Geographer 34.2 [1990]:
30 G. Dann, The Language of Tourism: A Sociolinguistic Interpretation (Wallingford, Oxon: CAB International, 1996), 59.
31 G. Hughes, “The Semiological Realization of Space,” in G. Ringer,
Destinations: Cultural Landscapes of
Tourism (London: Routledge, 1999), 18.
32 N. Tooke and M. Baker, “Seeing is Believing: The Effect of Film on Visitor Numbers to Screened Locations,” Tourism Management 17.2 (1996): 87-94; see also Riley, Baker and van Doren.
33 Batey, 76.
34 See for instance S. Daniels, “The Political Iconography of Woodland in Later Georgian England,” in D.
Cosgrove and S. Daniels, eds., The Iconography of Landscape (Cambridge, Cambridge University Press, 1988), 60-75; S. Daniels, “The Political Landscape,” in G. Carter, et al., Humphry Repton: Landscape Gardener, 1752-1818 (Norwich: Sainsbury Centre for Visual Arts, 1982), 110-21; and S. Daniels, Fields of
Vision: Landscape Imagery and National Identity in England and the U.S.
(Cambridge: Polity Press, 1993).
35 J. Derrida, “Ulysses Gramophone,” in Between the Blinds (New York:
Columbia University Press, 1991),
36 A. Compagnon, “Marcel Proust’s Remembrance of Things Past,” in P.
Nora, ed., Realms of Memory:
The Construction of the French Past. (2) Traditions (New York: Columbia University Press, 1997), 226.
37 S. Lash, Sociology of Postmodernism (London: Routledge, 1990).
38 M. Certeau, The Writing of History, trans T. Conley (New York: Columbia University Press, 1988), 280- 82.
39 G. van den Abbeele, “Sightseers: Tourist as Theorist,” Diacritics
10.2 (1980): 9; M. de Certeau,
Heterologies: Discourses on the Other, trans B. Massumi (Manchester:
Manchester University Press,
40 Hampshire County Council brochure, nd, p. 3.
41 For example, D. MacCannell, Empty Meeting Grounds: The Tourist Papers
(London: Routledge, 1992).
42 Van den Abbeele, 4.
43 J. Urry, The Tourist Gaze: Leisure and Travel in Contemporary Societies (Beverly Hills, CA.: Sage, 1990); M. Crang, “Picturing Practices: Research through the Tourist Gaze,” Progress in Human Geography
21.3 (1997): 359-74.
44 B. Kirshenblatt-Gimblett, Destination Culture: Tourism, Museums and Heritage (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1998), 171.
45 To point out such time-travel is impossible and is in one sense banal, but the jarring of periods does have impact on claims of “experiencing” Austen’s world. So, whereas Austen was struck by the glaring whiteness of the newly-built Bath, the same streets have now mellowed and possess an antique patina.
46 Kirshenblatt-Gimblett, 169.
47 Lauryl Lane published at, last accessed 11/4/01.
48 D. Pocock, “Catherine Cookson Country: Tourist Expectation and Experience,” Geography 77 (1992):
49 J. Glynn and R. Maines, “Numinous Objects,” Public Historian 15.1
(1993): 21.
50 P. McManus, “Memories as Indicators of the Impact of Museum Visits,” International Journal of Museum Management and Curatorship 12.4 (1993): 367-80.
51 O. Löfgren, On Holiday: A History of Vacationing (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1999), 9.
52 M. Hood, “Staying Away: Why people Choose Not to Visit Museums,”
Museum News 61.4 (1983): 50-
57; E. Hooper-Greenhill, “Counting Visitors or Visitors who Count?’ in R. Lumley, ed. The Museum Time
Machine: Putting Cultures on Display (London: Routledge, 1988), ch. 10; N.
Merriman, Beyond the Glass
Case: The Past, the Heritage and the Public in Britain (Leicester:
Leicester University Press, 1991).
53 D. Herbert, “Artistic and Literary Places in France as Tourist Attractions,” Tourism Management 17.2
(1996): 81.The figure is similar to most “heritage sites” in the UK.
54 S. Fish, “Narrative and Reader Response,” Critical Inquiry 7.1 (1980); R. Schole, “Is There a Fish in this Text?” in M. Blonsky, ed., On Signs (Oxford: Blackwells, 1985); W. Iser,
Prospecting: From Reader
Response to Literary Anthropology (Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press, 1989).
55 See for instance S. Squire, “Accounting for Cultural Meanings: The Interface Between Geography and Tourism Studies Re-examined,” Progress in Human Geography 18.1 (1994):
56 For example, Herbert 1996; R. Prentice, “Measuring the Educational Effectiveness of On-site Interpretation Designed for Tourists: An Assessment of Student Recall from Geographical Field Visits to Kidwelly Castle, Dyfed,” Area 23.4 (1991): 297-308.
57 T. Edensor, “Staging Tourism: Tourists as Performers,” Annals of Tourism Research 27.2 (2000): 322.
58 R. Stebbins, “Cultural Tourism as Serious Leisure,” Annals of Tourism Research 1997.
59 M. Morris, “At Henry Parkes Motel,” Cultural Studies 2.1 (1988):
60 According to Hoffman, “the aesthetics of appearance asserts place identity and a sense of rootedness, creates spaces and times of individuation and of social or universal connection” (439). Although in this case these sites are a fragile balance between a promise of this and a feeling that they are manufactured or inauthentic (G. Hoffmann, “The Aesthetic Attitude in a Post-ideological
World: History, Art/Literature and
the Museum Mentality in the Cultural Environment,” American Studies 34.4


: 423-79).
61 D. Bennett, “Wrapping Up Postmodernism: The Subject of Consumption Versus the Subject of Cognition,” A. Milner, P. Thomson, and C. Worth, eds., Postmodern Conditions (Oxford: Berg Publishers, 1990), 24-25.
62 I am wary that accounts that stress the indeterminacy of texts and the primacy of interpretative communities can either end up with a reader response determined by that community or return the “decentred subject to an imaginary autonomy and transcendence”
(Bennett, 31).
63 For one take on this national framing, and how British productions pick up on class, while those for a North American audience gloss over it, see C. Dole, “Austen, Class and the American Market,” in L.
and S. Greenfield, eds. Jane Austen in Hollywood (Lexington: University Press of Kentucky, 1998), 58-78.
For more discussion of the connections of tourism, gender and heritage see Aitchison, where she recounts how many nationalist sites are overwhelmingly masculinised (C. Aitchison, “Heritage and Nationalism:
Gender and the Performance of Power,” in Crouch, ed., Leisure/Tourism
Geographies: Practices and
Geographical Knowledge (London: Routledge, 1999), 59-73.
64 S. Squire, “The Cultural Values of Literary Tourism,” Annals of Tourism Research 21.1 (1994): 110-16.
65 Cf. M. Crang, “On the Heritage Trail: Maps of and Journeys to Olde Englande,” Society and Space 12
(1994): 341-55.
66 S. Stewart, On Longing: Narratives of the Miniature, the Gigantic, the Souvenir and the Collection
(Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press, 1984), 4.
67 Stewart, 135. See also C. Lury, who looks at the circulation of objects that evoke memories of travel at home and evoke home while travelling (C. Lury, “The Objects of Tourism,” in C. Rojek and J. Urry, eds., Touring Cultures: Transformation of Travel and Theory [London:
Routledge,1997], 75-95); and B.
Gordon, “The Souvenir: Messenger of the Extraordinary,” Journal of Popular Culture 20.3 (1986): 135-46.
68 Its home page is
69 Stewart, 44.

Department of Geography