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What is the motivation for this work? How does literature and maps complement each other? In one direction, many fiction books such as Lord of the Ring series, already comes with its own map for clarification purposes. It helps the reader to have an easier introduction to the fictitious world, the distance or obstacles between the protagonist’s journey is more immersive with visual clues. Having a map for a particular text, can make certain texts more accessible, especially if the reader is not knowledgeable in the particular setting of the text. Although hand crafted maps may exist for famous texts such as Marco Polo’s travels or fictitious places in the Homer’s The Odyssey, it is unlikely that every literary work can attract enough attention to motivate such manual labor. On the other direction, reading literature works about a certain place can provide more insight for a particular location. Considering that enough relevant texts are available for a location throughout a long period of time, a reader can use these sources to reflect on how a place changed through time.

One necessary step for this goal is to find, understand and process places from textual data. Extracting place names may look like an easy task. You can just compile a big list of all the place names in the world and compare every word in the input to a particular word set that contains all the place names and mark the matches. Yet, there are linguistic and geographic issues that pose a challenge to this framework. Languages (and thus place names) change slowly but constantly. The names of certain landmarks (for instance street names) change all the time as political movements come and go. Geographically, the world is subject to all kinds of change, some cities cease to exist due to natural disasters or small towns grow to capitals or shrink as the population deserts for better opportunities elsewhere. Problems such as above require a more elaborate approach then just crunching words and numbers.

Annotating texts with ontologies, from geography to persons and events is a work on progress to annotate place names in Latin literature. Geolat project (the resulting tool) will have a cartographic interface where users can choose a particular region and relevant authors, works, other places will be displayed on that particular region on that map interface. Or users can search for a certain place and get results on the map related to their searched keyword. The project is focused on Latin literature for the prototype phase, but it might be extended to include more works and other languages, or even other metadata such as people instead of place names. This particular work falls into the second category, as it explores how understanding of a place can be enriched with literature. Although it is focused on just Latin literature, the experience of the project like will be very useful to replicate the result of the project with regions other than Europe or with different languages or expand the reach of the project inside Latin literature.

Mapping and Unmapping Joyce: Geoparsing Wandering Rocks is a project that aims to analyze the geographic references in James Joyce’s Ulysses (in particular the Wandering Rocks episode) after the copyright of the work expired at 2012 in order to better understand Dublin (the setting) at the time the work was written. The quote “I want … to give a picture of Dublin so complete that if the city one day suddenly disappeared from the earth it could be reconstructed out of my book.” is attributed to Joyce regarding Ulysses, so the text was a good candidate for such approach. The project attempts to visualize the text and create a spatial reading experience of the episode and also contribute the resulting data for future uses, naming possible literary tourism. This project is very similar to the previous project, as it also attempts to gain better understanding of a place by examining a relevant text. The previous work was about compiling all the work related to a location, here we sacrifice that broader reach for just a single point at time but in extreme detail.

I think both these two works have a common goal and their approaches are complementing each other. Given a specific location, “Annotating texts with ontologies, from geography to persons and events” acts like a search engine to suggest relevant texts, whereas projects similar to “Mapping and Unmapping Joyce: Geoparsing Wandering Rocks” can take one of these texts and give a snapshot of that location at the time a work was written. In the end, the result will be a knowledge base that is both wide and tall.

A Sense of Place: Mapping Fictional Landscapes in Literary Narratives aims to construct 3d replicas of several fictional places in Spanish and Latin American literature. Now rather than mapping historical places from a text like the previous two papers, here we see a world being generated using the textual descriptions. The authors believe that by having these 3d environments, there can be ways to create more immersive experiences from one text such as following a character in his or her viewpoint inside the fictional town or having a detailed tour just like the actual tours provided to tourists in historically important castle and palaces. Both the use of these environments or generation of the maps by students can also be a better way to educate students on a literature, since maps or 3d environments can sometimes provide more context for several details or creating maps by students require  through understanding of a given work. This project is again similar to the previous two, yet it is trying to connect cartography and literature from the other direction. It explores the way additional maps (I am using maps in a somewhat larger sense, as with new technologies it may be fair to use the same word for 3d scenes in addition to interactive 2d maps) can influence learning, understanding and experiencing literature.


  1. Lana, Maurizio, Ciotti, Fabio, Magro, Diego, Peroni, Silvio, Tomasi, Francesca, and Vitali, Fabio. “Annotating Texts with Ontologies, from Geography to Persons and Events,” n.d. http://dharchive.org/paper/DH2014/Poster-136.xml
  2. Derven, Caleb, Teehan, Aja, and Keating, John. “Mapping and Unmapping Joyce: Geoparsing Wandering Rocks,” n.d. http://dharchive.org/paper/DH2014/Paper-510.xml
  3. Lynch, John, Kurtz, Wendy, and Rocchio, Michael. “A Sense of Place: Mapping Fictional Landscapes in Literary Narratives,” n.d. http://dharchive.org/paper/DH2014/Paper-723.xml