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Locating the beautiful, picturesque, sublime and majestic: spatially analysing the application of aesthetic terminology in descriptions of the English Lake District

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Published
<mark>Journal publication date</mark>04/2017
<mark>Journal</mark>Journal of Historical Geography
Volume56
Number of pages18
Pages (from-to)43-60
<mark>State</mark>Published
Early online date16/02/17
<mark>Original language</mark>English

Abstract

This article introduces and implements an interdisciplinary approach to the examination of historical text corpora. It presents a case study that combines corpus analysis, automated geoparsing and geographic information systems (GIS) to investigate the geographies associated with some of the key aesthetic terms historically used in writing about the English Lake District: a culturally prestigious region of lakes and mountains in northwest England. The basis of this investigation is a 1.5+ million-word corpus of travel writing and topographical literature about the Lake District. The corpus mainly consists of works from the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries. In investigating this corpus we identify and analyse a correspondence between eighteenth-century aesthetic theory and the use of the terms beautiful, picturesque, sublime and majestic in contemporaneous and later accounts of the Lakes region. Our analyses afford new insights into the historical use of these four aesthetic terms. Our findings, moreover, reveal how ephemeral publications, such as tourist guidebooks, helped to consolidate the application of the aesthetic principles and vocabulary formulated by canonical thinkers, including William Gilpin and Edmund Burke. In presenting this research, we demonstrate how a hybrid geographical and corpus-based methodology, which we call geographical text analysis, can advance the study of the connections between literature, aesthetics and physical geography.