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The Slipperiness of Literary Maps: Critical Cartography and Literary Cartography

Research output: Contribution to journalJournal article


Journal publication date2012
Number of pages12
Original languageEnglish


How we read and interpret a map when it is presented alongside the text in a work of literary fiction is the central issue with which this paper is concerned. Although “literary maps” can be found across a range of genres in Literary Studies they are often treated as illustrative rather than understood to be integral to the meaning of the literary work. This paper seeks to challenge such an assumption. The first half of the paper is interdisciplinary, engaging with the work of Harley, Monmonier, Moretti and Thacker in order to open up responses to literary maps in more complex ways. It draws upon critical cartography to define core concerns for an emerging literary cartography such as the nature of the analogy between map and text; the complexity of correspondence when a map and text occur alongside each other and the author is also the mapmaker; the difficulties created by naive users of the literary map. The second half of the paper grounds prior discussion in analysis of Agatha Christie’s house plans in The Mysterious Affair at Styles and The Murder of Roger Ackroyd.