In 1867, the author Samuel Langhorne Clemens, better known as Mark Twain, undertook a great pleasure excursion across Europe. Visiting a range of sites, from those associated with the Christian Cult of Death to the notable cultural heritage attractions of the time, Twain published his experiences in what would later become one of the world's best‐selling travelogues; The Innocents Abroad, or the New Pilgrim's Progress. This essay offers a rereading of Twain's encounters, proposing examination of Twain's encounters as timely and useful in addressing what Seaton identifies as a gap in data on thanatourism consumption.
The essay draws on contemporary thanatourism theoretical frameworks, including Seaton's “Continuum of intensity” and “Thanatourism developmental sketch”; Sharpley's “Matrix of dark tourism supply and demand” and Stone and Sharpley's “Dark tourism consumption framework”, among others, to explore Twain's encounters.
Supplemented by a review of recent theoretical thanatourism research, the essay proposes three findings. Finding one illustrates that Twain's encounters, although not always pre‐motivated or purposefully supplied, were emotionally charged and deeply affective experiences, which had the potential to provoke ontological insecurity. Finding two highlights the potential of the geography of death to stimulate emotional reactions and configure individual and societal interactions with death. Finding three argues a need for new methodological approaches to understanding the thanatourism experience; approaches that are empathetically sensitive to the potentially powerful impact of the thanatourism experience.
The essay draws on a classic travelogue to help address the imbalance in knowledge of the thanatourism experience. The essay argues that thanatourism is a layered and complex phenomenon, highly personal and often a potentially powerful and emotionally affective experience.
Johnston, T. (2013), "Mark Twain and
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