Timelines and Maps, Oh My!

I really enjoyed reading about maps in Moretti’s chapter this week, as maps often help visualize the setting in novels, as well as social relationships between characters. I’ve noticed in many modern texts maps are often included in the appendixes, an obvious example being A Song of Ice and Fire series, commonly known as Game of Thrones. In each one is a full map of the various territories, a genealogy for every house, and other helpful visuals to ensure the reader does not get confused between the thousands of characters and relationships.

Moretti makes an interesting argument concerning geometry and geography, and the discussion between relationships and force. I find that when I am reading about settings I don’t often consider the distances between areas, more I think in a cyclical manner, much like his circle map of the Black Forest Village Story. However, sometimes understanding the distance and difference between different places can affect the plot or meaning of the work, and in that case a map would truly help.


The classics do not always offer these helpful visuals and using these free mapping tools would allow students to better connect with and understand the material they’re reading. For instance, students could create timelines of important events in a character’s life and use that to explain the choices their character makes or the development of the character throughout the novel. Students could create maps on Google of the places mentioned in novels and compare climate and setting, and then compare the true descriptions of the places to what’s written in the novel. Tools like Coggle could be used in conjunction with tools like Voyant or TagCrowd, and students could create their own “TermBerries” or maps of specific themes with specific examples surrounding them.

These visual aids would help bring the text alive in front of students and connect the stories to the authors themselves. For example, I created a Google map of every place mentioned in Frankenstein as one layer and then added another layer of every place Mary Shelley had ever lived or visited. I borrowed from her story, History of a Six Week Tour, a book written about her affair with Percy Shelley abroad and found many places overlapped with Frankenstein. It was interesting to see how her life truly colored her work.

However, in creating this map I had a lot of issues. For one, it’s still saving, and has been for 20 minutes. Every time I preview it, half of the Mary Shelley locations do not exist. Maybe this is a lesson in patience, but the research put into the locations versus the output you will see is not great. 

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Saving… Saving… Saving…

I really like the visual aids this week, and can see many uses for them. However, ultimately they may simply take the place of Powerpoint, albeit easier to use and with more bells and whistles, without the reliable saving abilities. (485)

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4 thoughts on “Timelines and Maps, Oh My!

  1. I like how you’ve used the material learned from the previous reading and discussion in graphing (like Voyant tools) in the application to this new topic of mapping. It’s a good way to expand your understanding and advance in classroom setting with students. I also like how you were able to present Frankenstein’s geography with Mary Shelley’s personal experience with locations, overlapping and revealing a correlation between the two worlds. I appreciate the honesty and review of Google Maps, I had some troubles with the program myself which led me to using Timeline JS (still difficult in its own way) as well.

  2. I really like how you try to use mapping and timeline as a way to not only bring the novel alive for the reader or the students, but to also connect the works of the author along with the life of the author. I always find it interesting to realize that with most major authors, such as Hemmingway, most of his works correlated with events or settings related to the author. For instance, Hemmingway lived in Spain and Africa, so his works where the setting is Spain or Africa, is based on his experiences or experiences he has heard from people he has encountered. So it is very interesting to see this connection between an authors work and their life. If Hemmingway did not involve consuming alcohol in almost all of his works, no one would have known about his personal relationship with liquor. I feel like making this connection, helped readers learn more about the author and perhaps by knowing more, such as Hemmingway’s relationship with liquor, through reading more of his works, we will know what his feelings towards liqueur is. He consumes a lot of it, however, through reading, we will know if he views this in a positive or a negative manner.

    1. Speaking of Hemingway, throughout all his novels are personal allusions. Garden of Eden for example is about androgyny/transgenderism and was written about his son Gregory/daughter Gloria who crossed dressed and ultimately had sexual reassignment surgery (though waffled back and forth between how he presented himself). Hemingway and his son had a difficult relationship all his life due to the cross dressing and Eden was his final novel, written some think to help him overcome or work through his feelings about his son/daughter. (Sorry, I love Hemingway and in college he was my major author study 🙂 )

  3. I’ve never seen Game of Thrones, but I’ll assume it is something like Lord of the Rings… but to the point, your comment leads me to think about the genres that are most conducive to these mapping tools. While Google My Maps would work great for some type of historical fiction, fantasy novels are often the most in need of visualization. It’s often hard to grasp an entirely fictional universe without the aid of maps and other visuals.

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