This poster details an ongoing and expanding undergraduate research collaboration between the fields of American literature and Geographic Information Sciences (GIS) to further refine and develop the field of literary cartography. Over the past few years, I have been collaborating with students and professors in IESA to elucidate the literary and pedagogical value of reading texts geographically. This research grows out of the recent spatial turn in the humanities, which draws on the ideas of theorists like Edward Soja to eschew historical understandings of the nation state in favor of more spatial conceptions of how culture and capital function across borders. To this effect, literary cartography and Geographic Information Systems (GIS) have become indispensible in problematizing the stubborn nationalism and historical ideologies that underpin dominant understandings of space.
The poster first examines the outcomes of a specific undergraduate research project that applies GIS technology to read Karen Tei Yamashita’s polyvocal text Tropic of Orange. In this stage of the research, we incorporated digital humanities methodologies to cartographically interpret the narrative, referential, and historical geographies transgressed by each character in the novel as they move between the capital of Los Angeles and Mazatlan. Reading the novel through GIS evinces a spatial understanding of the cross migrations of bodies and capital into and out of Los Angeles. Such a reading additionally reveals the inherent diversity of Yamashita’s real-imagined Los Angeles even as it discloses the shifting, transnational spaces within our post-modern capitals and the ways they might be re-imagined.
The poster also describes a fall 2015 “virtual learning community” where two separate classes – one of English majors and one of GIS majors – engage in a hands-on collaborative literary cartography project. The project asks GIS majors to independently create maps of specific interest areas within a novel for English majors, who then in turn use that data in their own research essays. The resulting student projects will extend the field of literary analysis to focus on geography, borders, and spatial construction.
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18 July 2022