Tag Archives: literary geography

Content Alert: Transactions of the Institute of British Geographers, Volume 37, Issue 3 (July 2012) is Available Online Now

Volume 37, Issue 3 Pages 337 – 476, July 2012

The latest issue of Transactions of the Institute of British Geographers is available on Wiley Online Library.

Click past the break for a full list of articles in this issue.

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Incorporating the Subjective into GIS

Boats on Ullswater, the Lake District. (c) Wikimedia Commons.

by Benjamin Sacks

THE PROLIFERATION of Geographic Information System (GIS) frameworks in an ever-increasing number of applications has undoubtedly altered the way society interacts with the physical and cultural environment. Whether on our mobile phones, vehicles or mining, GIS serves a critical role in re-visualising our world.  If we look at current GIS applications, the bulk are quantitative, not qualitative in nature. Designed around statistical, logistical  and empirical data, most GIS programmes are designed to process and document algorithmic calculations via cartography. But, some disciplines, particularly the humanities, are far more difficult to quantify; there is rarely a ‘right-or-wrong’ answer, a binary ‘one’ or a ‘zero’ that GIS will easily understand.

Recent research authored by David Cooper and Ian N Gregory (Lancaster) entitled ‘Mapping the English Lake District: A Literary GIS’ seeks to expand GIS to the qualitative sphere. Featured in the January 2011 issue of Transactions of the Institute of British Geographers, their work explored the less-definable vision of maps – or what F Moretti described as, ‘A good map is worth a thousand words, cartographers say, and they are right’ (Moretti 1998, 3-4; Cooper and Gregory 2011, 89). Analysing what they term as ‘literary GIS,’ Cooper and Gregory digitally mapped two important travelogues on the Lake District: Thomas Gray’s Correspondence (1769) and Samuel Taylor Coleridge’s Collected Letters (1802). The authors noted that, although both Gray and Coleridge travelled through the Lake District, their geographical memories of the region stood markedly different from one another (91-92). Through mapping the locations and interactions highlighted in Correspondence and Collected Letters, respectively, Cooper and Gregory calculated their overlapping and distinct geographic spaces.

The beauty of Cooper and Gregory’s research lies not in their narrow examination of literary geographies in the Lake District, but rather in the sweeping potential their work signifies in GIS usability. With appropriate interpretation of qualitative sources, many global history texts can be visualised from a host of different parametres, including (but by no means limited to) literature, scientific advancement, economic and social development, and revolution and reform. The rise and fall of empires could be analysed via the journeys of period literary figures, rather than through the single-perspective lens of historians. Artists, musicians and architects can be ‘mapped’ in a simliar manner, opening exciting new possibilities in understanding geography past and present.

David Cooper and Ian N Gregory, ‘Mapping the English Lake District: A Literary GIS‘, Transactions of the Institute of British Geographers New Series 36 (Jan., 2011): pp. 89-108.


Literally Geography

by Fiona Ferbrache

In the Welsh village of Hay-on-Wye, the 2010 Hay Festival of Literature and Arts came to a close on Sunday.  Although primarily associated with books and their authors, the festival has expanded into comedy, musical performance and film previews.  Among the guest line-up this year were the usual array of literary giants, as well as internationally-renowned academics, and a few MPs – Deputy prime minister, Nick Clegg was a guest on the last day and spoke of the government’s ambitions for electoral reform.

Staying with the theme of literature, I enjoyed reading a co-authored interdisciplinary paper this month in TIBG.  Writing together from the University of Exeter, Cornwall, geographer Catherine Brace and Adeline Johns-Putra, from the department of English, describe a project that was conducted between academics from literary studies and from geography.  The aim of their project was to explore the creative writing process; firstly from the perspective of writers engaged in the process of writing for pleasure and, secondly, to question how the ephemeral practice of writing can be captured and understood.  The concept of inspiration plays a significant role in this article, as do representational and non-representational theory.  The paper ends with the observation that “the acts of reading aloud to other writers, sharing writing and giving and receiving criticism form part of the performative element of being a writer”.  This is where literary festivals, such as Hay, become important events, not just for authors, but all sorts of writers, thinkers and, of course, the audiences.

Read about the 2010 Hay Festival through its sponsor: The Guardian

Read the Brace and Johns-Putra article in TIBG: Recovering inspiration in the spaces of creative writing

More about the Hay Festival here

Creative places

By Rosa Mas Giralt

This week, the All England Lawn Tennis Club announced the appointment of Wimbledon’s first official poet, Matt Harvey. The author will delight tennis fans during the tournament by providing versified chronicles of this year’s events. His creations will be published online on Wimbledon’s official website – www.wimbledon.org – and the Poetry Trust website – www.thepoetrytrust.org– and also as podcasts. Additionally, Harvey will entertain the public via Twitter and by reciting his poems to the queues of patient tennis fans. The iconic space of Wimbledon will provide a dynamic backdrop from which the poet will draw his inspiration, a process which has already started with his first lyrical composition “The Grandest of Slams”.

The relationship between ‘inspiration’ and the places where it takes place is at the centre of a forthcoming article in Transactions of the Institute of British Geographers by Brace and Johns-Putra (2010, early view). Writing from the collaborative nexus between geography and literary studies, the authors set off to recover the concept of ‘inspiration’ (which they explain, has been subjected to strong criticisms in literary studies, 2010:2) because of the compelling meaning that this concept still holds for those who write for pleasure. By engaging with representational and non-representational theories, the authors investigate the “elements of inspiration” (2010: 13) through discussions with their participant writers in an attempt to represent the ineffable creative process.

 Visit Wimbledon’s website to read about the appointment of Matt Harvey as the Championships’ poet

 Read C. Brace and A. Johns-Putra (2010) “Recovering inspiration in the spaces of creative writing”. Transactions of the Institute of British Geographers. (Early view).

Novel geographies

By Matthew Rech

Writing in Geography Compass, Sheila Hones charts the development and evolution of literary geographies. From its origins in comparative studies of geographical description, the use of literature in the study of geography has challenged disciplinary boundaries and has influenced scholarly approaches to space and place.

In particular, Hones highlights new developments in the field of literary geography that consider fiction and poetry as explicitly spatial, with the “reading-writing nexus as a contextualised and always emerging event” (1302). The geographies of literature are always arguably twofold, Hones suggests, “the first being the geography of the initial text event, and the second being the geography of the context in which the reader’s experience of that event is later narrated” (1302).

Whilst then the possibilities (texts, events, readings, moments) are manifold in the geo-graphing of literature, it might be helpful to focus on particular examples.

Reviewing for the Guardian, Giles Foden celebrates the first English translation of JMG Le Clezio’s Desert (1980). Preoccupied with migrations and ‘separations from the natural world’ (“issues [that] have become critical globally”), Desert tells the tale of two North African Tuareg children who are variously dispossessed by war and imperialism. Told from “two viewpoints, and in a double time scheme”, Desert may provide a good starting point, replete with its “array of people, places, times, contexts, networks and communities” (Hones, 1301), from which to consider the possibilities of literary geography.

Read Hones, S (2008) Text as It Happens: Literary Geography. Geography Compass. 5. 1301-17

Read Giles Foden’s review of GMJ Le Clezio’s Desert

Virtual Conference Report: Day Seven (27 Oct, 2009)

By Paula Bowles800px-Three_chiefs_Piegan_p.39_horizontal The seventh day of the conference has continued with the key themes of ‘breaking down boundaries’ and interdisciplinarity. Roy Baumeister (Florida State University) began the day with his keynote lecture entitled ‘Human Nature and Culture: What is the Human Mind Designed for?’ By utilising the concepts of evolutionary and cultural psychology, Buameister is able to explore the intrinsic significance culture holds for humanity. Two other papers were also presented today. ‘Text as It Happens: Literary Geography’ by Sheila Hones (University of Tokyo) and Stefan Müller’s (University of Duisburg‐Essen) ‘Equal Representation of Time and Space: Arno Peters’ Universal History.’ These contributions have utilised a wide and diverse range of disciplines including history, cartography, geography and literature. Finally, Devonya Havis’ publishing workshop entitled ‘Teaching with Compass’ offers some interesting ideas as to how best implement technology within the classroom.