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Mapping the English Lake District: a literary GIS

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To date, much of the work that uses Geographical Information Systems (GIS) to study human geographies applies a social science paradigm to quantitative data. There is a growing recognition of the need, however, to test whether GIS can be used to map out the qualitative ‘data’ provided by the articulation of subjective spatial experiences. This paper expands the conceptual possibilities opened up by the use of GIS technology through an exploration of the theoretical potentiality of literary GIS. Drawing on work carried out as part of an interdisciplinary project, ‘Mapping the Lakes’, the paper focuses on the ways in which GIS can be used to explore the spatial relationships between two textual accounts of tours of the English Lake District: the proto-Picturesque journey undertaken by the poet, Thomas Gray, in the autumn of 1769; and Samuel Taylor Coleridge’s self-consciously post-Picturesque ‘circumcursion’ of August 1802. Alongside this text-specific focus, the paper also draws on recent spatial literary criticism to reflect, more generally, on the critical possibilities and problems associated with the digital mapping of space and place in literature. Ultimately, the paper seeks to open up methodological and critical space for the ongoing development of literary GIS.
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Keywords: English Lake District; GIS; digital humanities; literary cartography; literary studies; spatial theory

Document Type: Research Article

Affiliations: 1: Department of English and Creative Writing, Lancaster University, Lancaster LA1 4YD, Email: 2: Department of History, Lancaster University, Lancaster LA1 4YG, Email:

Publication date: 2011-01-01

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