Geography of literature
You probably know places described in literature that also exist in real life. Sometimes it is easy to recognize them, and sometimes discovering their true location requires investigation. Is it possible to put all these places on a map?
All genres of literature contain many components of human life, including many geographical places that really exist. What a sense of delight and connection we feel when we find in a book not only the name of a city we know, but maybe even a special street or a famous house!
There are places and landmarks familiar to everybody (for example the Tower of London, the Great Wall of China, the Eiffel Tower, or the Metropolitan Museum of Art). However, most locations mentioned in literature are not so well-known. Where do writers come up with their settings of choice? Are they actual real-life places or are they simply invented? If some streets, houses, gardens, bridges, and stores described in books really exist then there might be people who live nearby or remember what they look like!
People who live in large cities are more likely to encounter their towns and places they know in the literature they read. However, the places used and named in books are endless. Many of these places are often real, recognizable locations with histories of their own. It is interesting to discover whether the author visited the location in person or perhaps only read or heard about it. However they came to be a part of the story, these places are worth investigating. We invite you to join us in this exploration of places found in books.
Deciding what you are going to investigate is the first step. You can use any building, house, street, bridge, park, or prison – anything that really exists or a place that you discover is representing a real place but using another name. After choosing an author and his book you should copy out an excerpt (or multiple excerpts if the place of analysis is described more than once in this book) and then the investigation begins!
Ask yourself the following questions: in what time period did the author write? Is the description of your chosen place in the book reliable and accurate? You can begin to reconstruct its history using sources such as text illustrations, old photos, archival records, articles in popular magazines, and many others.
Try to reconstruct a historical picture of the place, determine whether the author visited it in person, and find out how closely the author’s life was linked to this place. Trace all changes that have taken place there since the author wrote the book. Make inquiries of an archivist or at a library (what if you happen to find an old photo or some other interesting records!) and then tell everybody about your discoveries.
Finally, be sure to make a picture of the object or place you investigate – its current state is very important for the investigation. If you are unable for some reason to make a photo, you can use a picture from the internet (do not forget to give credit where credit is due).
It may happen that several Report Forms are completed on the same place. This would be great because it will add depth and reliability to our scientific research.