Mapping Literary Texts

Graham has 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:

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

Franco Moretti proposes new interdisciplinary approaches for deriving knowledge and value from the novel, using mapping (Moretti 2007).  Of particular interest to travel writers is Moretti’s application of geographical techniques to help understand why visitors found the stories of Mary Mitford (1787-1855) in the five volumes of Our Village (1824-1832) so attractive, buying and appropriating them as if they were travel writing to guide their 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. ISBN 9780992857936

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

Nantes, enfin – Well the field trip to Nantes is all set, again; this time with a group of undergraduates who are studying French language.  Crossing the Channel in January was perhaps rather ambitious of me, so this journey is set for 4th May.  We planned travel to Southampton by train from Plymouth on the Tuesday, staying overnight in the Premier Inn on the airport and then fly FlyBe direct to NTE on Wednesday. 

Bénédicte and Xavier at Le Voyage à Nantes have been very patient after my first research visit was postponed, and they have stepped in to help us to find venues and attractions for our students of French.  For example, they have found this wine bar to host our WSET training afternoon (Wine & Spirit Education Trust): La Comédie des Vins. 

Our French lesson for this post fits perfectly for a sight-seeing expedition to the city of Nantes with its Island of Machines:

Tu as eu l’occasion de voir tout ce que tu voulais ?

Did you have chance to see all you wanted to? Or ‘all that you were wanting to see’ since that last verb, vouloir, is in the imperfect tense.  The sentence gives a useful example of the use of the imperfect where the desire the see the sights was in the past but lasted for some time while the opportunity to see them was gone.