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Scholars like Peter Turchi argue that the relationship between literature and geography is important to consider when looking at a text. While this discipline, called literary cartography, is on the forefront in Europe, it is only seldom considered by American scholars. My paper shows that a simple literary cartography approach allows us to read a novel from a new perspective. For this purpose I have chosen “The Life and Adventures of Joaquín Murieta” by John Rollin Ridge which follows the fictionalized Mexican bandit Joaquín Murieta on his exploits through California. Through pinning each place in the novel onto a Google Map and tracing them chronologically, we create a map that shows the area he covers and his journey. This allows us to read the novel as a travelogue, while further work may allow us to layer data on socio-economic status, population and other aspects of 1850 California to draw further conclusions. Using the approach of literary cartography, we can reestablish this novel as an important historical artifact because it is the first novel published in California as well as the first novel published by a Native American and because it maps a realistic journey through California. I argue that using literary cartography as a means of text analysis opens up new perspectives to literature and helps us connect fictional texts to reality while shedding new light on the importance of literary cartography to literary criticism.


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18 Jul 2022
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  • Alternative title
    • Mapping Joaquín

  • Journal title
    • Papers & Publications

  • Volume
    • 5

  • Issue
    • 1

  • Date submitted

    18 July 2022

  • Keywords
  • Additional information
    • Acknowledgements:

      I want to thank Dr. Anastasia Lin for introducing me to literary cartography and supporting me during every step of this journey! I also want to thank my parents for always believing in me and making this journey possible in the first place.

      Author Biography:

      Reinhild Kokula was born in 1995 in Würzburg, Germany, alongside three siblings and was raised in the area. After skipping a year of elementary school, she attended the Friedrich-Koenig Gymnasium Würzburg and graduated in 2012. In the same year she started attending the Julius-Maximilians-Universität Würzburg and has been studying teaching at grammar schools (“Lehramt an Gymnasien”) in the subjects English, Math and Computer Science. In Fall 2015, she spent a semester abroad in the USA at the University of North Georgia; during this time she learned about the subject of literary cartography and created this essay which she presented at the Georgia Undergraduate Research Conference 2015 in Statesboro, GA. She is expected to complete her studies at the University of Würzburg in July 2017 with the state exams.

      Graduation Date:

      December 2015