AbstractSince more than one hundredyears, various literary schools have tried to map literature but it has neverbeen enough material in order to write a comprehensive study – thus creating certainstagnation in this area of research. But recently, the situation has changed andmultiples ideas regarding literary geography and mapping solutions have beendiscovered. This paper aims to present the concept of literary geography andliterary cartography, to highlight its particularities and to resurface pertinentproblems and solutions regarding this field of study.
Whileliterary geography is still a “wide and fugitive” field (Stableford, 35) whichlacks 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 literarystudies. Firstly, there are model studies such as: Schleswig Holstein byUngern-Sternberg, on border thematic as well as essay collections by Frick ontheoretical foundation by Böhme, Werber,Westphal and secondly there are oldertheories such as: Mikail Bakthin’s theory of the chronotopes (Bakthin 1981, butwritten around 1930) or Michel Foucault’s concepts of heterotopia (Foucault1984, but first presented in 1967). One could easily assert the fact that thefield of study became quickly vast and overflown with information but from allthe presented data only a couple of recurrent processes have been identified: travelling,crossing borders, city in literature, interactions and tensions between centerand periphery, places of imagination, literary tourism. (Doering, 247-260)Even if literary geographyis the overall topic of research; literary cartography is its immediate sub-discipline,which actually provides a method and actual tools in order to analyze andexplore the geography of literature. This sub-discipline is concerned with theactual mapping of literature – a method that has had its fair share of admirersand protesters.
Here one can mention two famous modernist writers, which havenot been reserved in their opinions about the said subject – Virginia Woolf andJames Joyce. V. Woolf stated in her 1905 essay “Literary Cartography” that the act of physically drawing a writer’sworld and turning it into a tangible city “of brick and mortar” represents aviolation of the entire creation because it tempers with the story with thecharacters 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 toorelatable. (Woolf, 10)One would argue thatprecisely these aspects of literary cartography make the concept itselfappealing because it has the ability to bring together the reader and thecharacter, creating an empathic link between them. Of course, the matter oftrivialization is immediately hinted at but in this case, one would argue thatthe positive aspects outweigh the negative ones.
The same vision seems to beinstilled in J. Joyce’s answer during a meeting with F. Budgen: “I want to give a picture ofDublin so complete that if the city one day disappeared from the earth it couldbe reconstructed out of my book” (Budgen, 67-68)It goes without saying thatthe sub-discipline follows the second opinion. One of its traditional startingpoints is precisely the assumption that a large part of fiction refers to thephysical/real world (the geo-space) by using a variety of identifiable toponymsor dense descriptions of existing places and spaces.
Of course that literatureis able to create other spaces without any sort of limitations – countries,continents, civilizations, stellar systems, places that have no referencetowards the geo-space. In between them, there are also various degrees ofmerged settings – spaces/places in fiction which have a real counterpart buthave been transformed through the process of re-naming, re-modeling oroverlaying. Despite this enormous variety is setting, a number of used spatialmodels can be spotted and this is the key to a form of literary cartography whichis built as a whole system. (Budgen, 66-68)This system can be furtherdivided into two closely linked branches: the mapping of a single text and itsspatial elements and the mapping of groups of texts or aspects related to thetexts which lead to statistical approaches like which landscapes of the citymerge, when have the writers exhausted the literary potential of a place, howintentional is the space or which political-historical conditions are takeninto consideration? All these questions have found more or less pertinentanswers due to the data and phenomena that are represented on interactive maps.In this process of mapping, the question of how tocollect the needed data has rapidly become an issue because an advancedliterary cartography calls for a careful reading and preparation of the textsto 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 talkingabout locability, some of the geographical and topographical information can beextracted straight from the text, while in many other cases there is a need forfurther interpretation. While some fictional plots are clearly anchored inexisting regions, others prove to be hard or downright impossible to localizedue to the lack of specific information about a real world counter-part. If nosuch place is indicated, only the reading experience, along with detailedknowledge allows the researcher to point out the possible location on a map.
Vanishedspaces are another category which calls for expertise; especially when talkingabout reconfigured urban spaces. In this case, text experts have to decidewhether an official building, street or city, has disappeared from thegeo-space or has never been there in the first place; being only a figment ofthe writer’s imagination. (Piatti, 7-8)The fact that literarycartography is based on individual readings, need to be problematized alsobecause this process has to deal with a double uncertainty factor which has tobe stated in both primary material and methodology. The texts that are under scrutinydo not always provide distinct information – as previously stated – and differentinterpreters can choose different viewpoints and come up with contradictoryresults due to the fact that the main process of mapping involves reading – an entirelysubjective activity perceived by everyone differently – . Currently, the onlypractical solution is to clearly mark what data has been retrieved directlyfrom the text and what data is already part of interpretation (direct versusindirect referenced).
Another problem of the mapping process lies in the “zoomingeffect” of the literary texts when a sudden change in perspective can go from amicroscopic level to an international one. How does one depict a journey withdifferent periods, a text that starts at a certain point in time and goesbackward from there, or characters that move below surface, travel beneathearth? Here, one can see that the challenges for an elaborated literary cartographyare almost limitless. (Piatti, 14-16) Literarycartography stands at the brink of a new era. All the spatial studies mentionedat the beginning of the paper state and reinforce the fact that spatial studiesare a strong sign for the current and future prospering of the field. It becomesmore and more apparent that many researchers are currently concerned withsimilar questions regarding literary cartography and geography.
If bothdisciplines – literary studies and cartography – join forces successfully, thena bright new horizon opens in front of us: Literary cartography might offer newpossibilities in writing, explaining and teaching the history of literature.Since the methods are supposed to be transferable ones, any literature-relatedlandscape or city could be studied. On one hand the literary riches of singleregions could be illuminated, on the other hand fictionalized landscapes andcities could be examined comparatively, in the sense of a literary-geographicalsystem. Such a spatially organized history of literature does not stop atnational or linguistic borders since it follows a genuinely comparativeapproach. What comes gradually into view is the (imaginary) space ofliterature, which has its own dimensions, which functions according to its ownrules, but which is nevertheless anchored in the ‘reality’ of existing spacesand places. Workscited Bakhtin, M.
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