Words are English. Books are English. Everything is English. Well, that’s what the VisitBritain ‘Literary Hotspot’ map seems to suggest. VisitBritain tweeted out an illustrative map in which all the titans of ‘British’ Literature were depicted; Wordsworth, Austin, Dahl, Shakespeare and the others are easily guessed. However, one element didn’t sit right, especially with the Welsh and Scottish; according to the map, Wales had only ever produced shrubbery and Scotland and Northern Ireland seemed to have had a secret referendum to finally leave Britain as they didn’t feature at all.
The map garnered the attention of many proud non-Englishmen such as Cerys Matthews and Huw Edwards as they both drew attention to the delicate semantics of ‘Britain’ and ‘England’. This a familiar narrative that contextualises ‘British’ celebrations when they come around as many like to forget what Britain means. I think what happens far too often is that people are unsure what constitutes Great Britain, the United Kingdom and Albion so they just settle for England. After all, its what’s been piped in. At this point Wales and Scotland must feel like the remaining dust particles of the British Empire; there, but never noticed.
After a couple of hours of scandal and outrage, it transpired that VisitBritain mistakenly published this VisitEngland map. There might be, however, a valid argument that this tweet could be put into the ‘Freudian Slip’ folder. Even with the first mess of oppressive Anglocentrism being cleared up, another mess comes into plain view once one studies this map: what is it really trying to achieve? The primary motive screams out: to pique the interests of tourists who might come to England due to their burgeoning love of literary landmarks! The information along with the map (found on VisitEngland’s website) points to a Harry Potter filming location, Bram Stoker taking inspiration from Whitby for Dracula and D. H Lawrence’s birthplace.
It’s clear that, although the map doesn’t claim to reflect the whole of Britain, it has bastardised the history of some of the mentioned works in order to fit them into the English literary tradition. J. K. Rowling, it turns out, wrote Harry Potter in Edinburgh and Bram Stoker was, incidentally, Irish. These ‘hotspots’ of English literary tradition seem a bit loose and precariously placed on this map. Still, I would love to see American tourists rolling up to Whitby and asking the locals to point them in the way of Dracula’s castle.
Image Credit: ThoughtCo