Wednesday, July 17, 2013

New Resource: Placing Literature

A resource that just launched in June 2013, Placing literature is an online database that allows you to find and/or plot locations from your favorite stories through Google maps.  The site, which was created by author, Andrew Bardin Williams, geographer, Kathleen Colin Williams, and software engineer, Steven Young, helps readers better visualize settings, distance, and more.  If you just want to search the locations already in the database, you can do so by entering the map and zooming to a location or typing it in the search bar.  If your location is in the database a little book icon marks the place, by clicking on this icon you can get more details on that specific setting.  If your location is not in the database you can log into the website using Google and simply create the location by clicking on the spot and after an icon appears you can click again to generate a form that will ask you to fill out the book, location, setting, scene, etc.



With this site, anyone can add locations, which allows locations to be added at an extremely fast pace.  Which is seemingly fantastic, the more settings entered the better.  More information is constantly becoming available to users.  But it also leaves the possibility for false locations and errors.  Besides general mistakes like marking the wrong location, confusing books, or any other mishaps with reading or technology, there is always that jokester.  That one person that gets the bright idea to invent their own inappropriate book which just happens to have a setting in some obscure place.  But the creators seemed to recognize this and included the ability for anyone to report an error via email.  

As a reader, I immediately thought of how useful this would be when reading novels where the characters travel.  For example, this could be incredibly helpful in reading Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice.  By plotting points where the Bennet family visits and or discusses, a reader can see the distance between places like Brighton and Hertfordshire to better understand how far away Lydia is moving from her family.  This familiarizes the readers with the locations which can help with the understanding of a story.  I also enjoyed searching different locations and finding different novels set within each location.  This could easily work as a create your own literary tour based on your own personal interests.  If you’re interested in Shakespeare as well as Harry Potter, you could potentially create a tour in London that would guide you to different settings based on Shakespeare and Harry Potter.   

But keep in mind if you are not a huge fan of technology or you would rather look at maps from a specific time period, author, or novel there are always literary maps.  In the Stephen S. Clark Library we have a variety of literary maps and atlases from Steinbeck and Hemingway to the fictional lands from The Lord of the Rings.  In some ways these may be more useful in terms of narrowing your search by author or title rather than location.  But if location is what you need, then Placing Literature is a fantastic easy to use resource!