Document Type

Theses, Ph.D


Available under a Creative Commons Attribution Non-Commercial Share Alike 4.0 International Licence



Publication Details

Thesis successfully submitted in fulfilment of the requirements for the degree of Doctor of Philosophy


Literary festivals are an increasingly significant component of cultural participation nowadays, yet scholars ask for more research on the cultural benefits gained through festival participation. This study uses Bourdieu’s ideas about cultural capital and Stebbins’ serious leisure perspective to understand if, and how, literary festival participation shapes individual cultural capital. Empirically, the study takes an interpretivist stance and is a qualitative case study of one Irish and one Italian literary festival. The data gathered derive from key informant interviews (n = 4), participant observations, and on-site interviews (n = 92) and follow-up interviews (n = 34) with festival participants. Findings reveal that individual cultural capital was reinforced, stimulated, or acquired. They suggest that literary festivals can be rewarding experiences for participants that lead to the development of all three states of cultural capital, both field-specific and non field-specific. Findings also show that this complex and dynamic process that was shaped by internal and external elements. Participants acquired cultural capital during and after the festivals; through interaction; in and around the festival venues; through several actions and senses; and in ways that were influenced by different levels of involvement and enjoyment. This study develops theory by furthering understandings of the cultural value of literary festivals and the nature of literary festival audiences. It interweaves cultural capital with the serious leisure perspective to produce a model that should help to overcome some of the conceptualisation and operationalisation constraints of cultural capital when applied in the festival context. The model is proposed to guide further research. It also develops the concepts of Literary Festival Careers and the Literary Festival Involvement Scale. The thesis ends with some suggestions to inform future festival policy development.