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Mapping machines: transformations of the Petersburg text

Young, SJ; Levin, J; (2013) Mapping machines: transformations of the Petersburg text. Primerjalna književnost (Comparative Literature) , 36 (2) pp. 107-118.

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The essay explores the methodologies and initial results of our geographic visualization project ‘Mapping St Petersburg’, which aims to produce an experimental cartography of the ‘Petersburg text’, a literary corpus whose development is interwoven with that of both the city and of modern Russian culture as a whole. Moving away from the sense of familiarity inherent in much literary criticism, we are aiming at radical deformations (in Jerome McGann’s term) of Petersburg texts. Dissolving the works into spatial data engenders a process of estrangement (ostranenie) that allows concealed meanings and dimensions to emerge. A close reading for space enables us to map the texts, transforming them into a distant reading. A simultaneous cognitive process of reading for spatial relations provides the context for cartographic experimentation. This re-forms literary works to create new patterns of meaning that reveal the potential texts. To create these maps, we are using ‘neo-geographical’ tools, such as Google Maps. This technology is marked by its low barriers to entry, accessibility, usability, and potential ubiquity via modern mobile devices. It neither dictates, nor stands detached, but enables, allowing experimentation and play with minimal overheads and expenditure of time. Through it, we advance an idea, based upon Stephen Ramsay’s ‘reading machines’ and ‘algorithmic criticism’, of utilising 'no-GIS' applications to generate thought games.

Type: Article
Title: Mapping machines: transformations of the Petersburg text
Location: Slovenia
Publisher version: http://sdpk.zrc-sazu.si/clreview.htm
Keywords: Digital humanities, literature, mapping, St Petersburg, machine reading, spatial literature
UCL classification: UCL > School of Arts and Social Sciences
UCL > School of Arts and Social Sciences > SSEES
URI: http://discovery.ucl.ac.uk/id/eprint/1364262
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