Wednesday, September 14, 2011

More literary maps (paper and computer-based)

Illustration of the voyage of the Pequod, from Moby Dick, one of a series of 12 literary maps produced as a calendar by the Harris-Seybold Co. in the 1950s. From American Treasures of the Library of Congress.

Often in the past, I've needed visuals as an aid in fully understanding a story. When I took a class on Dante's Inferno in college, I kept finding myself lost in the circles of hell until I drew them all out on a long scroll of paper. I glanced at it under my desk during class. In the years since, I've yearned for a laminated, fold-up Streetwise-like map to accompany books I was reading—not just for Dante's Inferno, but also for Huckleberry Finn's Mississippi, etc.

Of course, fantasy novels often have accompanying maps on the inside pages.  (The Map Room: A Weblog About Maps has a great round-up of maps for Imaginary Places, including both books and movies).

After I wrote my post on creating a geographic map for Alice Munro, I googled around for examples of other Internet-based "literary maps." Here's what I found:

• Google Lit Trips - developed "as part of the Google Certified Teachers program," it offers free downloadable files "that mark the journeys of characters from famous literature." One problem I have with it is that you have to download a separate file for each book and you have to use the Google Earth application to run it.  Another problem is that, compared to a map put up on Google Maps, the files are relatively static. They're files versus something more akin to a fluid web page.

Wikimapia - According to Wikipedia, this is a "privately owned, online map and satellite imaging resource that combines Google Maps with a wiki system, allowing users to add information, in the form of a note, to any location on Earth." There are some literary places marked, but they're noted individually. For example, search for "F. Scott Fitzgerald" and you'll get a map that marks his grave site.

The Atlas of Fiction - This site uses Google Maps to mark real locations mentioned in selected, singular fictional works. For example, the map for Jane Austen's Persuasion marks "The Cobb, Lyme" where "Anne meets the Harvilles and Captain Benwick; Louisa's accident." Also offers a World View, where major sites in fictional works are offered as a group.

• Finally, the New York Times produced a Literary Map of Manhattan in 2005, with quotes from the books noted at selected locations.

I'm sure there's more out there, but this is all I've had time to find this afternoon. Happy mapping!

A different kind of literary map: the USA Literary Map features a "total of 226 geographically connected authors." (Click on the link to see a larger image of it).

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