Abstract Since more than one hundred years,

Abstract

Since more than one hundred
years, various literary schools have tried to map literature but it has never
been enough material in order to write a comprehensive study – thus creating certain
stagnation in this area of research. But recently, the situation has changed and
multiples ideas regarding literary geography and mapping solutions have been
discovered. This paper aims to present the concept of literary geography and
literary cartography, to highlight its particularities and to resurface pertinent
problems and solutions regarding this field of study.

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            While
literary geography is still a “wide and fugitive” field (Stableford, 35) which
lacks a precise outline that other fields of study possess – intertextuality,
structuralism, rhetoric – crucial developments have occurred during the 1990’s,
that have permitted this field to establish itself as a paradigm of literary
studies. Firstly, there are model studies such as: Schleswig Holstein by
Ungern-Sternberg, on border thematic as well as essay collections by Frick on
theoretical foundation by Böhme, Werber,Westphal and secondly there are older
theories such as: Mikail Bakthin’s theory of the chronotopes (Bakthin 1981, but
written around 1930) or Michel Foucault’s concepts of heterotopia (Foucault
1984, but first presented in 1967). One could easily assert the fact that the
field of study became quickly vast and overflown with information but from all
the presented data only a couple of recurrent processes have been identified: travelling,
crossing borders, city in literature, interactions and tensions between center
and periphery, places of imagination, literary tourism. (Doering, 247-260)Even if literary geography
is the overall topic of research; literary cartography is its immediate sub-discipline,
which actually provides a method and actual tools in order to analyze and
explore the geography of literature. This sub-discipline is concerned with the
actual mapping of literature – a method that has had its fair share of admirers
and protesters. Here one can mention two famous modernist writers, which have
not been reserved in their opinions about the said subject – Virginia Woolf and
James Joyce. V. Woolf stated in her 1905 essay “Literary Cartography” that the act of physically drawing a writer’s
world and turning it into a tangible city “of brick and mortar” represents a
violation of the entire creation because it tempers with the story with the
characters and with the setting making it lose its entire appeal, its mystery,
humanizing it and bringing it too close to the reader, making it thus too
relatable. (Woolf, 10)One would argue that
precisely these aspects of literary cartography make the concept itself
appealing because it has the ability to bring together the reader and the
character, creating an empathic link between them. Of course, the matter of
trivialization is immediately hinted at but in this case, one would argue that
the positive aspects outweigh the negative ones. The same vision seems to be
instilled in J. Joyce’s answer during a meeting with F. Budgen: “I want to give a picture of
Dublin so complete that if the city one day disappeared from the earth it could
be reconstructed out of my book” (Budgen, 67-68)It goes without saying that
the sub-discipline follows the second opinion. One of its traditional starting
points is precisely the assumption that a large part of fiction refers to the
physical/real world (the geo-space) by using a variety of identifiable toponyms
or dense descriptions of existing places and spaces. Of course that literature
is able to create other spaces without any sort of limitations – countries,
continents, civilizations, stellar systems, places that have no reference
towards the geo-space. In between them, there are also various degrees of
merged settings – spaces/places in fiction which have a real counterpart but
have been transformed through the process of re-naming, re-modeling or
overlaying. Despite this enormous variety is setting, a number of used spatial
models can be spotted and this is the key to a form of literary cartography which
is built as a whole system. (Budgen, 66-68)This system can be further
divided into two closely linked branches: the mapping of a single text and its
spatial elements and the mapping of groups of texts or aspects related to the
texts which lead to statistical approaches like which landscapes of the city
merge, when have the writers exhausted the literary potential of a place, how
intentional is the space or which political-historical conditions are taken
into consideration? All these questions have found more or less pertinent
answers due to the data and phenomena that are represented on interactive maps.In this process of mapping, the question of how to
collect the needed data has rapidly become an issue because an advanced
literary cartography calls for a careful reading and preparation of the texts
to be mapped. Certain aspects depend only on the educated, professional reader,
who has to accept that some spatial aspects of literature will prove to be unmappable,
a line between the two concepts being clearly drawn. But even with such separations,
the problem of locability and changes of the geo-space still occur. When talking
about locability, some of the geographical and topographical information can be
extracted straight from the text, while in many other cases there is a need for
further interpretation. While some fictional plots are clearly anchored in
existing regions, others prove to be hard or downright impossible to localize
due to the lack of specific information about a real world counter-part. If no
such place is indicated, only the reading experience, along with detailed
knowledge allows the researcher to point out the possible location on a map. Vanished
spaces are another category which calls for expertise; especially when talking
about reconfigured urban spaces. In this case, text experts have to decide
whether an official building, street or city, has disappeared from the
geo-space or has never been there in the first place; being only a figment of
the writer’s imagination. (Piatti, 7-8)The fact that literary
cartography is based on individual readings, need to be problematized also
because this process has to deal with a double uncertainty factor which has to
be stated in both primary material and methodology. The texts that are under scrutiny
do not always provide distinct information – as previously stated – and different
interpreters can choose different viewpoints and come up with contradictory
results due to the fact that the main process of mapping involves reading – an entirely
subjective activity perceived by everyone differently – . Currently, the only
practical solution is to clearly mark what data has been retrieved directly
from the text and what data is already part of interpretation (direct versus
indirect referenced). Another problem of the mapping process lies in the “zooming
effect” of the literary texts when a sudden change in perspective can go from a
microscopic level to an international one. How does one depict a journey with
different periods, a text that starts at a certain point in time and goes
backward from there, or characters that move below surface, travel beneath
earth? Here, one can see that the challenges for an elaborated literary cartography
are almost limitless. (Piatti, 14-16)            Literary
cartography stands at the brink of a new era. All the spatial studies mentioned
at the beginning of the paper state and reinforce the fact that spatial studies
are a strong sign for the current and future prospering of the field. It becomes
more and more apparent that many researchers are currently concerned with
similar questions regarding literary cartography and geography. If both
disciplines – literary studies and cartography – join forces successfully, then
a bright new horizon opens in front of us: Literary cartography might offer new
possibilities in writing, explaining and teaching the history of literature.
Since the methods are supposed to be transferable ones, any literature-related
landscape or city could be studied. On one hand the literary riches of single
regions could be illuminated, on the other hand fictionalized landscapes and
cities could be examined comparatively, in the sense of a literary-geographical
system. Such a spatially organized history of literature does not stop at
national or linguistic borders since it follows a genuinely comparative
approach. What comes gradually into view is the (imaginary) space of
literature, which has its own dimensions, which functions according to its own
rules, but which is nevertheless anchored in the ‘reality’ of existing spaces
and places.

 Works
cited Bakhtin, M. M. (1981): The Dialogic Imagination: Four
Essays. Translated by Emerson, C. and Michael Holquist. Austin and London:
University of Texas Press. written during the 1930s. Böhme, H. (ed)
(2005): Topographien der Literatur: Deutsche Literatur im transnationalen
Kontext. Stuttgart: J. B. Metzler. Bradbury, M. (ed) (1996): The Atlas of Literature.
London: De Agostini Editions. Budgen, F. (1934, reprinted 1960): James Joyce
and the Making of ‘Ulysses’. Bloomington: Indiana University Press. Döring, J. (2009): Zur Geschichte der Literaturkarte
(1907-2008).In: Döring, J., Thielmann, Tristan (eds): Mediengeographie.
Theorie-Analyse-Diskussion. Bielefeld: transcript Verlag pp. 247-290.Foucault, M. (1984): Des espaces autres. In:
Architecture, Mouvement, Continuité, no. 5, pp. 46-49. Piatti, B. (2008a): Die Geographie der Literatur.
Schauplätze, Handlungsräume, Raumphantasien. Göttingen: Wallstein. Piatti, B., Reuschel, A.-K., Bär, H. R., Cartwright,
W., Hurni, L. (2009): Mapping Literature. Towards a Geography of Fiction. In:
Cartwright, W., et al. (eds): Cartography and Art (Lecture Notes in
Geoinformation and Cartography). Heidelberg: Springer, pp. 177-192.Piatti, B., Reuschel, A.-K.; Bär, H. R., Hurni, L.
(2008b): Die Geographie der Fiktion – Das Projekt ‚Ein literarischer Atlas
Europas’. In: Kartographische Nachrichten, No. 6, pp. 287-294.Stableford, B. (2003): Introduction. In: Rasmussen, K.
R., et al. (eds): Cyclopedia of Literary Places, vol. 1, Pasadena (CA): Salem
Press, pp. xxxv-xlii.Westphal, B. (2007): La Géocritique. Réel, Fiction,
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Woolf, V. (1986):
Literary Geography. In: McNeillie, A. (ed): The Essays of Virginia Woolf, (4
volumes), vol. I, London: Hogarth Press

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