Digitally Mapping Literature–what good can it do?

What is the advantage of a literary work that is digitally mapped?

This year for my DH project, I’m thinking about completing my mapping project I started exactly a year ago. I will be keeping my old data and add some new features as it can intersect with my research interest–i.e. age studies. Most of the work will involve transforming and exporting my data into a publishable data set. I will be using excel, ArcGIS, and mostly storymap tool. Storymap is an opensource tool, an interactive map sharing program. As I have engaged in ArcGIS tool before, I know it is an incredibly rich program–meaning that it involves learning complicated and oftentimes time-consuming techniques.

In addition to the technical honing and creating an aesthetically/functionally-pleasing storymap, I want to take time to think about what I can do with this opportunity. Last time I admit I was too concerned with the limitations of such project that I did not think of the gains of digital mappings. “Distant reading” as Moretti calls it or creating a mega-data (“mega” compared to close-reading one literary text as traditional literary critics do) containing more than 30 texts to compare and contrast, find patterns, pick out an outlier itself produces a different but no less valuable result. And I also want to take time to think about some of the doubts I had about my own project.

  • Are there any other ways to “measure” monstrosity or sympathy level? Is it valuable to measure such subjective literary effect? Are there other ways than numeric scale?
  • What techniques/tools/alternatives are there to project the uncertainties about the point of locality or distance range in the map?

Going back to creating a visual map, I also will be thinking about turning literary text into a visual text.

  • What will it mean for my viewer or for my own project that I pick the color pink for female monsters and black for more monstrous characters? Should I choose between visual-grasping i.e. “can be grasped at first glance” and challenging ingrained connotations of such connections?

Environmental scan: What other projects similar to mine are out there?

On official esri site, there are less than 10 storymaps under the category of literature or novel–the small amount of which is surprising. (Maybe I should find a better tag?) About half of them pinpoints the point of a character’s appearance on a map–official or manipulated–and have a text next to the map or over them as one scrolls down or clicks the point.

As I have tables and graphs that will compare/contrast monster’s distance and monstrosity by gender, I will not only use the map (bulleted) but also the scroll-down feature (side accordion) to explain the result of the comparative data.


(Marvel Superhero Origins,


I found three mapping project that interested me in esri. The first one above is a mapping of marvel hero and heroine’s origin. It is a rather simple story map that pinpoints the location of hero’s birth and action with a side accordion that explains each character’s name,birthplace, first appearance, ability, and origin story. The map is not so detailed to street name but the map has a visually corresponding aesthetic matching to the general theme. Another project, not listed on esri but on DHcommons and that uses ArcGIS storymap tool, is “Mapping at the Mountains of Madness” by Matt Mckinley. This mapping project is similar to mine in that it is mapping the locale of real as well as fictional places on earth. It maps locations detailed in Lovecraft’s novella “At the Mountains of Madness.” The map shows two different colors of points–one fictional and one real. The author uses “buffer” effect to speculate and demonstrate that the location is speculated. This project also, however, is not so detailed in its rationale as well as argumentation why one needs such map. 


(Mapping at the Mountains of Madness


One model storymap I found is “The Two Koreas.” Though this one does not concern any literature, it contains many features I think are adaptable to my project. First, it is enable in another language, Korean, as well as English which attracts more audience and makes the project shareable to larger spectrum. What was most attractive about this storymap is how it utilizes text with the visual. It explains very well what this project is about and why (though implicitly) such visual materials are integral for understanding the theme. It involves picture, moving maps, overlapping of maps, as well as a lineal historical line (this will be helpful for my project!), and graphs. It seems incredible amount of effort, work, and creativity were invested in this project.


(The Two Koreas: