Undergraduate English Courses

359:362 Plotting Narratives with Birchbark and Google

01  T7  CAC  19725  JONES  SC-205
      TH7                              SC-116

Plotting Narratives with Birchbark and Google

Have digital mapping resources changed the way read? Can we read texts differently or more accurately in conjunction with the historical mapping tools and geo-referencing technologies that have rapidly and recently reshaped the digital archives? And how might our readings be reshaped when we employ 21st-century mapping resources alongside nonwestern and indigenous mapping technologies that are now so readily accessible online? This course poses a series of questions about methodologies of reading in the Information Age, with particular regard to digital maps, digital mapping archives, and the photographs and images that are so abundantly fused to these technologies. Our aim will be to interrogate a rising issue: are we reading differently, and are we reading more richly, as a result of online mapping tools? And is it possible that these tools might penetrate too deeply?

Can we join, for instance, the birchbark maps of the Abenaki and Beothuk peoples with digital topographic maps from the National Geographic Survey to illuminate the North American routes and encounters narrated in two Icelandic sagas, the Saga of Greenlanders and the Saga of Erik the Red? Can we read James Fenimore Cooper's The Last of the Mohicans more powerfully by consulting the cartographical elements of Iroquoian wampum belts—long off-limits to casual readers but now easily locatable online? In what ways might we imagine Henry James's Washington Square differently by way of the New York Public Library's crowdsourced Map Warper tools? Or how might our conceptions of Virginia Woolf's Mrs. Dalloway change when we use the historical mapping resources from Locating London's Past alongside the immersive experience of Google Street View to track Clarissa Dalloway's movements through early-twentieth-century London? This course will use a variety of mapping resources to illuminate and examine the geographic and geospatial dimensions of these and other texts whose plots or discourses are closely bound up with mappable spaces.