Map visualization and quantification of literary places in a Spanish corpus

Workshop on Computational Methods in the Humanities · Lausanne · 2018


1) Theoretical framework

Piatti, B., Die Geographie der Literatur, 2008
  • spatial turn
  • geographies of literary corpora
  • fictional literary geography:
    • basic quantitative analysis (places);
    • vizualisation of places & itineraries.

2) Literary mapping

"the knowledge of GEOGRAPHY is, which, in that respect therefore is of ∫ome, and not without iu∫t cau∫e called The eye of Hi∫tory [...] the reading of Hi∫tories doeth both ∫eeme to be much more plea∫ant, and in deed ∫o it is, when the Mappe being layed before our eyes, we may behold things done, or places where they were done, as if they were at this time pre∫ent and in doing." (Ortelius, The theatre of the vvhole world, London, 1606: 4v)

“For the courtiers do not stir from their rooms or beyond the threshold of their court, but travel over the whole world merely by looking at a map, without a farthing's cost or suffering heat or cold, hunger, or thirst.” (Cervantes, Don Quixote, 1615, 2, VI)

Literary maps by cartographers

Vtopiae typus. [...] Descriptione D. Thomas Mori, Delineatione Abrahami Ortelij · wikimedia
Map of Don Quixote's adventures in a Quijote edition, by the geographer Tomás López, 1780 © BNE

Digital literary mapping

  • creation of post-authorial maps (Bushell 2012: 152)
  • analytical potentiality (+)
  • as a critical component of a DSE (+)

    Byzantine literary genre in Spain (XVI-XVII)

  • Chronotope: sea travels, pirates, exoticism.
  • "Kartographisches Schreiben"Dünne 2011: 61-66
  • (Historical cartography as narrative model)

  • Carta Marina (Persiles), Theatrum Orbis Terrarum (Semprilis).
  • North-South axis vs. Mediterranean basin.

3) Methodological framework

  • Answers & new questions.
  • Possibilities of digital mapping.

Corpus (proof of concept): 5 novels

Location extraction

  • Stanford NER
  • · version 3.8.0
    · language models 2017/09/06 (Spanish, English)
  • FreeLing
  • · version 4.0
    · performance with (old) Spanish (+)


  • Gazzetters via APIs infrastructure
  • Geolocation R package: "editio/georeference" (forked from ggmap)
  • Georeference and tiling of historical maps (QGIS)

    Digital Mapping (Leaflet for R)

    • JavaScript library for interactive maps.
    • one environment for data & visualization.
    • overlay historic maps.
    • export capabilities (interactive html).

    4) Map visualization

    place cluster of five novels

    coverage: cluster's bounds in «Persiles» (red)

    coverage: cluster's bounds in «Aethiopica» (grey)

    coverage: cluster's bounds in «Semprilis» (green)

    places by frequency

    places clustered by proximity in «Semprilis» (heat map)

    shared places between novels (grouped by number)

    methodological issues 1/2

    • Fiction in real places?
    • "Recent applications of the ‘spatial turn’ in literary studies naively presuppose the mappability of literature, reducing fiction to ‘invented events in real places." (Stockhammer, 2013: 123)

    • One type of fictional place?
    • historical, invented, indirect reference, mix of real and fictional, displaced, fantastic, explicitly imprecise, etc (Reuschel/Hurni, 2011)

    • Zones of narrative action?

      remembered, dreamed places, digresions, diegesis, etc. (Piatti, 2008)

    • Only place names as spatial feature?

    technical issues 2/2

    • Inaccurate NER (Bornet/Kaplan, 2017).
    • Limits of automated geolocation by gazetteers.
    • Place disambiguation (manual).
    • Uncontrolled clustering method.

    Gazetteers automated returns

    5) Visualization of itineraries

    Itinerary and stops of the lovers (Semprilis and Genorodano).

    literarische Kartizität

    "Affinität oder Distanz zu kartographischen Darstellungsverfahren" (Stockhamer, 2007: 68)

    (affinity or distance to cartographic visualization techniques)

    Historical map overlay (digitized and georeferenced)

    Inset: "Congi Regni Christiani, in Africa, nova descriptio."

    overlay: Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth (circa 1619)

    6) Final remarks

    • "GIS killing cartography" (Crampton, 2010: 22)
    • Literary Neogeography. (Turner, 2006; Richterich, 2011)
    • Critic to Moretti's maps (graphs vs. maps). (Moretti, 2007)
    • (Un)mappability of literature. (Stockhammer, 2007)


    • D. J. Bodenhamer, J. Corrigan, T. M. Harris (eds.). 2010. The Spatial Humanities. GIS and the Future of Humanities Scholarship, Indiana University Press, Bloomington.
    • C. Bornet, F. Kaplan. 2017. “A Simple Set of Rules for Characters and Place Recognition in French Novels”, Frontiers in Digital Humanities, 4, March.
    • S. Bushell. 2012. “The Slipperiness of Literary Maps: Critical Cartography and Literary Cartography”. Cartographica: The International Journal for Geographic Information and Geovisualization, 47, 3, 149-60.
    • J. W. Crampton. 2010. Mapping. A Critical Introduction to Cartography and GIS. Wiley-Blackwell.
    • J. Dünne. 2011. Die kartographische Imagination: Erinnern, Erzählen und Fingieren in der Frühen Neuzeit, München, Fink.
    • J. L. Losada Palenzuela. 2017. "Desplazamiento de la imagen septentrional: Polonia en La historia de las fortunas de Semprilis y Genorodano". In H. Ehrlicher & J. Dünne (Eds.), Ficciones entre mundos. Nuevas lecturas de «Los Trabajos de Persiles y Sigismunda» de Miguel de Cervantes (pp. 253-273). Kassel: Reichenberger.
    • F. Moretti. 2007. Graphs, Maps and Trees. Abstract Models for Literary History. 2.ª ed. London, New York. Verso.
    • B. Piatti. 2008. Die Geographie der Literatur. Schauplätze, Handlungsräume, Raumphantasien. Göttingen, Wallstein-Verlag.
    • A.K. Reuschel, L. Hurni. 2011. “Mapping Literature: Visualisation of Spatial Uncertainty in Fiction”. The Cartographic Journal. Cartographies of Fictional Worlds, 48, 4, 293-308.
    • R. Stockhammer. 2007. Kartierung der Erde: Macht und Lust in Karten und Literatur. München, Fink.
    • R. Stockhammer. 2013. “Exokeanismós: the (un)mappability of literature”, Primerjalna Knjizevnost, 36, 2, 123-138.
    José Luis Losada Palenzuela, "Map visualization and quantification of literary places in a Spanish corpus", 2018.

    Clustering in leaflet maps

    Grid‐Based Clustering (Wang, Yang, Muntz: 1997)

    • 2-D surface.
    • Spatial data.
    • Map area divided into squares.
    • Square size (predefined parameter) changes at each zoom level.
    • Groups points into each square grid.
    • Methods: STING, WaveCluster, CLIQUE.
    • Depends on a distance measure?
      • grid (therefore clusters) changes by a predefined parameter (square size).

    Leaflet clustering funcion Leaflet.markercluster

    • Algorithm uncontrolled by the user (STING?).
    • Modification of the grid size?
    • (just) few options:
      • "maxClusterRadius": max. radius (in pixels, default 80) from the central marker.
    • Aligned with the gridlines of latitude and longitude?
    • Projections? Only WGS 84 or Web Mercator coordinate systems?