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THE ROMANCE OF SIMULATION: W. B. YEATS AND THE THEME-PARKING OF IRELAND SPURGEON THOMPSON tourist and literary discourses represent two apparently distinct systems of thought. On the one hand, tourism has the capacity within its totalizing logic to commodify every idea, experience, narrative, discourse, person , or place that it can. Once they are Xattened to a plane of commodity, a virtual cornucopia of text-products can be sold to visitors. Behind tourism is the cultural motor of consumerism. The most attractive aspect of tourism to those who control it is that production costs are extremely low, especially when selling concepts of place, heritage, ethnicity, or other primarily textually produced and apprehended products; at the same time, seasonal proWts are generally very high. At its basis, tourism is antianalytical— trying to produce subjects who “forget,” who “escape” from serious thought or work, and trying to mystify the material relations undergirding its operation while at the same time naturalizing all that comprises the status quo. Literature and literary theory, on the other hand, provide at the very least a permissive space in which to contest the production of meaning. The force and demands of the market are either diluted or mediated by the institutional condition of literary discourses. The interrogative driving this essay is: what happens when mass tourism appropriates literary discourses for its own use? What happens when a text like Yeats’s “Lake Isle of Innisfree” is torn from its contested place in literary history and used to market cologne and bubble bath to tourists in Ireland?1 Is it possible for some texts to be more “susceptible” to appropriation than others? And if so, what systems of thought would have to be represented in a literary text—and which would have to be excluded or W. B. YEATS AND THE THEME-PARKING OF IRELAND 17 1 These products are marketed by Fragrances of Ireland, Ltd., Jameson’s Corner, Kilmacanogue , Bray, Co. Wicklow. repressed—for it to be popularized and adopted by tourist discourse? These questions take on a particularly urgent character when they arise from an analysis of such a problem in the context of a postcolonial Ireland, where economic conditions are poor, oYcial unemployment is at over twenty percent , and where tourism and its attendant service industries have become major employers, representing the second largest percentage of Ireland’s gross national product. One cannot argue against tourism without considering the jobs of thousands, in other words. The argument then becomes a matter of deWning politics, not taking sides for or against tourism. It becomes an issue of identifying, critiquing, demystifying, and challenging established cultural obviousnesses as they have come to be represented in Irish tourist discourse, not merely to take sides in a dispute that is already written into and fully accommodated by the logic of international tourism. Tourism will happen. It is just a matter of what it will represent and how it will function—aspects which are truly contestable. A German entrepreneur recently proposed a unique theme park for Prenden, Germany, in what used to be the German Democratic Republic . As part of his eVort to recreate Stalinist East Germany, visitors to the park would be treated to regular military parades, excessively long lines for consumer goods, and closed circuit television channels showing Soviet propaganda Wlms. One of the park’s special features would be the unscheduled arrest and imprisonment without trial of visitors by a simulated secret police force driving unmarked vans. Frank Georgi, a former subject of Soviet rule in Prenden and the man who has proposed this park, explains it as follows: Most people in West Germany and other countries never knew what life was like for us, and this will be a chance to see. Also, people who lived here don’t want to lose all contact with the last 40 years of their lives. They feel a kind of nostalgia for the old days.2 The logic of theme parks, which at least formally originated with Disneyland in California, is part of a system of thought so totalizing as to convince formerly colonized subjects that simulation—even of brutal oppression —is the answer to their economic problems. At the 1993...

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Additional Information

ISSN
1550-5162
Print ISSN
0013-2683
Pages
pp. 17-34
Launched on MUSE
2017-08-31
Open Access
No
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