NEH Summer Seminar, “Mapping, Text, and Travel”

Deadline: March 1, 2016

Dates: July 11-August 12, 2016

Location: Newberry Library (Chicago, IL)

Program Link

The five-week NEH Seminar, led by James Akerman and Jordana Dym, will examine the complex relationship between text, mapping, and travel from the emergence of the modern world to the dawn of the digital age, focusing on the genre of travel mapping within the wider context of the history of cartography and travel publication. The program of lectures, workshops, and discussions encourages 16 participants to cross disciplinary boundaries and move beyond regional and chronological specialties to reflect on the ways in which mapping has shaped travelers’ imagination and the experience of place and landscape, of identity and history, and of time and space. The seminar will embrace a broad geographical and chronological focus on the Atlantic World richly supported by the Newberry’s rich holdings of cartography, geography, art, history, literature, and the history of printing from the 15th to the 21st centuries.

One of the most significant and persistent ways in which humans have expressed their constructions of movement in the world and communicated them to others is through maps. Mapping mediated personal exploration and the development of the sense of self in relation to the world. The graphic representation of the travel experience contributed to the formation of modern national and social identities, ideas of nature and ecology, concepts of the city and countryside, and the popular appreciation of art, architecture, and history. It also supported imaginary journeys and gave physical form to the compression of space and time brought by industrial and post-industrial technologies. The juxtaposition of maps with travel narratives, guidebook texts, and images further complicates the meaning and use of these images and texts in ways that historians, cartographic scholars, and literary scholars have barely begun to address.

Mapping, Text, and Travel seeks to stimulate the development of new scholarship and perspectives on the complex relationship between text, mapping, and travel from the emergence of the modern world to the dawn of the digital age. Following a roughly chronological program, seminar sessions will introduce the genres of travel mapping and situate them within the wider context of the history of cartography and travel publication. They will survey and review frameworks for interpretation of maps for and by travelers and cartography’s relationship to text and other dimensions of travel writing. Situating the development of travel cartography within the wider history and culture of travel, the seminar’s readings, discussions, workshops, and research will feature the insights of literary scholars, historical geographers and historians of cartography, art historians, travel historians, and other historical subfields.

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