Mapping Literary Texts

Feb 21, 2016 |
Figure 11 Chapters of The Yellow Dog mapped onto Concarneau (Mansfield 2015, 183)

Figure 11 Chapters of The Yellow Dog mapped onto Concarneau (Mansfield 2015, 183)

Dr Graham Busby has just told me about Blunderbuss Magazine, and in particular, an article from February 2016 on topography in literary texts posted by Garth Greenwell.  The piece put me in mind of the mapping that I discovered and went on to use in my doctoral work on Simenon’s novel set in Brittany, The Yellow Dog; I drew my theory from Franco Moretti’s work. Please see long quote below:

 “Franco Moretti in this century has proposed new interdisciplinary approaches for deriving knowledge and value from the novel, using graphs, maps and ecology (Moretti 2007).  Of particular interest to this study is Moretti’s application of geographical techniques to help understand why London visitors have found the stories of Mary Mitford (1787-1855) in the five volumes of Our Village (1824-1832) so attractive, buying and appropriating them as tourist guide-books for walks around Three Mile Cross, Berkshire (Moretti 2007).  Moretti maps out the stylised image painted by Mitford of the strip village demonstrating that her stories take place in a circle rather than imitating the long row of houses that stretch along the road to Hampshire.  Personal relationships act as the points of the first, inner ring on Moretti’s circular graph of the topology of Mitford’s fictions.  The outer orbit plots events from nature and from collective village life (Moretti 2007).  Drawing on his materialist background as a theorist, Moretti then overlays the spatial divisions of labour onto the first graph.  Historiography often terms this configuration of places of material activity and of the work of everyday life, the mentalité of an area, Moretti points out (Moretti 2007). This is how Mitford’s stories work, he proposes, they convert the mentalité ‘into a ring of pleasure’ (Moretti 2007, 42).  This, he says, is the creation of ideology out of mentalité because the text reverses the symbolic associations of the points on the map from work to pleasure.”   (Mansfield 2015, 64-65).



Mansfield, C. (2015) Researching Literary Tourism, Plymouth, Shadows TKT. DOI: 10.13140/RG.2.1.4212.9441   ISBN 9780992857936

Moretti, F. (2007) Graphs, Maps, Trees – Abstract Models for Literary History, London & New York, Verso.

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