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The symbolic power of the tourist attraction

Dean MacCannell
Traduction(s) :
Le pouvoir symbolique de l’attraction touristique [fr]

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Dean MacCannell at Chartres, winter, 1968

Dean MacCannell at Chartres, winter, 1968

Photograph by Juliet Flower MacCannell

1In December, 1967, shortly after I defended my Cornell Ph.D. dissertation, Juliet and I moved to Paris. This picture was taken on our first sightseeing trip after I began in earnest to work on The Tourist. It is among a very few pictures in our collection of me being a tourist. The only other visitors to Chartres on that cold winter day was a group of about 12 Germans. I followed them around surreptitiously taking notes. They were mainly interested in the chemical composition of the different colors of stained glass. They seemed to be very knowledgeable about chemistry and glass, possibly taking a side trip from an industrial trade show. For my part, I was more interested in the flying buttresses and Chartres’ designation as a UNESCO World Heritage site. In that moment I knew that my understanding of tourism could never be based on what hooks the imagination of individual tourists. We may all have different reasons for wanting to be there. The key could not be found in the minds of the tourists. It had to be in the attraction itself. What is the source of its symbolic power to magnetize millions of different kinds of desire? The insistence of this question is signaled by my orientation in the photograph. Instead of staring goofily at the camera, “Here I am in front of Chartres.” I appear to be asking the Saints for help: “How did you manage to stay so famous as the world turned secular around you?”

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Titre Dean MacCannell at Chartres, winter, 1968
Crédits Photograph by Juliet Flower MacCannell
Fichier image/jpeg, 410k
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Dean MacCannell, « The symbolic power of the tourist attraction », Via [En ligne], 13 | 2018, mis en ligne le 01 septembre 2018, consulté le 15 janvier 2019. URL :

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Dean MacCannell

University of California at Davis

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Via Tourism Review est mis à disposition selon les termes de la Licence Creative Commons Attribution - Pas d'Utilisation Commerciale - Pas de Modification 4.0 International.

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