Friday, July 31, 2015

Romance Geographies and Geographic Literacies: Theoretical and Practical Concerns in Mapping Medieval Texts [Roundtable]

Kalamazoo 2016 #Kzoo2016

Romance Geographies and Geographic Literacies: Theoretical and Practical Concerns in Mapping Medieval Texts [Roundtable]
51st International Congress in Medieval Studies, Kalamazoo, Michigan (May 12-15, 2016)

John A. Geck
Department of English
Memorial University

The related subjects of mapping and geocriticism in medieval studies have been growing in popularity, and mapping literary spaces has become an increasing area of interest for literary specialists. Place and space figure largely in much of medieval literature, and this is particularly true for medieval romance, wherein romance protagonists often undertake wide-ranging journeys across much of the known world.

However, in exploring the use of space and place in medieval texts, scholars engaged in small- or large-scale mapping projects find themselves facing a number of concerns. On the theoretical level, we must ask what these exotic place names mean, for instance, to a thirteenth-century English readership. Do “Lettow” or “Arabe” correspond in any useful way with the lands we now understand as “Lithuania” or “Arabia”? Can we map this medieval sense of place on or over our modern, Cartesian-derived, projection of the world? Do modern maps possess a more specifically-delineated scope and purpose (to reflect physical space) than their medieval counterparts? How do medieval maps represent conceptual units such as “nation”/people, city/citizenry, or Christendom/Christians?

These theoretical questions ought to be addressed before any researcher considers practical concerns, such as how this data should be presented. Is a single, static map sufficient, or is a more functional, but also more complex solution such as a Geographic Information System (GIS) application suitable? How transferable is this collected geographic data for other scholar's uses? Is the end result ultimately useful for publishable research or classroom pedagogy?

This session seeks presenters from the diverse but interrelated fields of Digital Humanities GIS and medieval literature to talk across disciplinary boundaries and arrive at some possible answers to both theoretical and practical issues in mapping projects.

Please submit abstracts of 300 words or less, and a Participation Information Form (available here: to John A. Geck (

Deadline: September 15th 2015

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