Antwerp, the fictional home of Nello & Patrasche from A Dog of Flanders (1872) written by Marie Louise de la Ramée, attracts thousands of tourists every year to see the city and get close to the fictional text. European children’s literature such as this inspires dedicated fans who long to make more real the imagined spaces described by authors. The city and associated monuments and markers become sites of secular pilgrimage; people traveling to them experience children’s literary culture as local heritage. Traveling across borders, visiting these European spaces of children’s literature, taking official and unofficial tours, and listening to the stories which people share while physically present help to secure a place in which international fans can play with notions of local identity and cultural heritage. Or, as Yi-Fu Tuan argues, “When space feels thoroughly familiar to us, it has become place.” This case study seeks to interrogate the importance of place in the transcultural fan community of A Dog of Flanders. I analyse the touristic pilgrimage to Antwerp and the social/communal rituals associated with what John Urry calls the “mediatised gaze” as fans inhabit spaces typically reserved for city locals. This paper also considers the importance of place in the transcultural fan community of European children’s literature, discussing how glocalization allows texts to travel across international borders and encourage transcultural appropriation.
- A Dog of Flanders