Day Four – Prompt #4: An Idea for Mapping a Text or a Topic

In the brief introduction of the chapter, it submits to the audience a simple question about maps: “what exactly do they do? What do they doo that cannot be done with words, that is; because, if it can be done with words, then maps are superfluous” (Moretti, 35). Some words, however, fail to elaborate the necessities of a journey in writing. An example of how maps help illustrate the story is how some prints of Treasure Island or Gulliver’s Travels include elaborate yet fictional maps while using common terminology, schematics, and oceanology to create realistic representations in certain cases. In relation to Treasure Island, it would help the audience see where the treasure was buried on the island on a map despite being told of its location to give the audience an in-depth feeling of being part of the story. Furthermore, Gulliver’s Travels has various different locations that the character journeys throughout this quest of returning home, getting lost in different, uncharted lands populated by little people, giants, and other strange creatures. For that reason, if it is an uncharted territory, it only makes rational sense that the character on the journey would wish to document it for others, fictional or non-fictional.

To that end, I see how a circular (or “3D, omnidirectional”) narrative space can be beneficial to a linear direction for the audience to explain the story. To know the surroundings around the story (a village, an island, etc.) helps the audience by giving the option of traveling along with the characters, enabling them to “backtrack” if necessary for reference points. As Moretti explains, “when a system is free to spread its energy in space’, writes Rudolf Arnheim, ‘it sends out its vectors evenly all around, like the rays emanating from a source of light. The resulting… pattern is the prototype of centric composition.’” (Moretti, 39). The audience thus has the freedom to extend their perspective or senses like the “rays” of light across the composition.

With Google MyMaps, a body of students can use these technological advances in mapping to construct a map (or “journey”) of places they’ve been or haven’t been to illustrate a story. For example, a student can put a layer for a general location and then use a marker to pinpoint that specific location like a birthplace; you could even go further than that by marking other locations of where you’ve moved and present a ‘linear’ path from past to present as a project. This would help promote creativity and design to students regardless of the subject (English, History, Biology, etc.). You could also use Timeline JS to illustrate a this ‘linear’ sense further with same effect of story-telling. In either case, a student could essentially present their life/background to a classroom, giving way to an opportunity to build new relationship between students (new and/or old). Below is an example, a journey from birthplace in the past to current location in the present as well as trips made outside the US:


6 thoughts on “Day Four – Prompt #4: An Idea for Mapping a Text or a Topic

  1. Well done Alec! I agree with your explanation for why maps are helpful in literature. Maps would definitely come in handy with Homer, and if Dante hadn’t added a picture, the layers of hell would have been hard to imagine. It’s almost as if we need to insert more pictures into “serious” literature! I find it funny that you spoke about the centric composition, yet made a very linear timeline. Do you think there’s any way to put the two together?

    1. I can certainty see the two, centric composition and linear timeline, corresponding with each other. For example, I could provide a timeline of the different, specific locations within a state or country within a journey that I visited while providing a written description and/or a visual image of the location from personal experience; like how I used Ireland as one of my “trips” in the timeline, I could describe in writing and/or provide an image of Dublin to map Ireland further for the reader/viewer.

      1. Vincent — I love your suggestion of having students create their own personal timelines as a strategy to create/enhance community within the classroom. I think that this would also really work well for an online class where it is extremely difficult to create that sense of personal presence. I hadn’t been considering how I might use these DH tools in more than simply “academic” ways, but your post is pushing me to think outside the proverbial box. Thank you for providing your timeline as an example — it is really well done!

    2. I’m so sorry Vincent! When this first posted it had Alec’s name as the author and I remember thinking it interesting that he made a timeline of your life! I just assumed you were close friends!

  2. This is so cool Vincent! I really like your Time Line trips. The fact that Time Line can be designed for other subjects makes it even better. The idea of Time Line came to my mind when I was thinking of mapping Absalom! Absalom! for my post. And because this novel travels in time and places, I thought it would be great to create a Time Line that links the time of the events with places in the novel. Unfortunately, this was not easy at all, so I just did a mind map sample of the places in the novel.

  3. Just to further elaborate on your point about how creating maps helps build creativity within a student, I believe that there is so much more that can be done with the map or even a timeline. For instance, as a writer of a story, during the process of thinking how will I create my story, I can simply use the map and timeline for brainstorming. So I can use the map to state what settings I want present in my story, and what each location defines, what should occur in each location. If I wanted to incorporate a timeline with this, I can simply do a timeline to show how long my characters will need in order to read each setting and follow the plot of which I hope to follow and grow through writing. So not only does mapping and timeline help with growing your creativity, but it is an amazing brainstorming tool, especially for writers that have ideas and don’t know how to organize them. This method helps create a miniature version of what the work would look like and then the writer will know if they want to further proceed with their current ideas, or if they want to make changes to the plot. I think using this tool will help motivate many writers to follow and not give up their dream of writing.

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