, Volume 44, Issue 1, pp 65–81 | Cite as

GIS and telescopic reading: between spatial and digital humanities

  • Enrique Santos UnamunoEmail author


This paper begins with the so-called spatial turn and goes on to examine one of its most recent offshoots: the cartographic turn. After analysing the implications that this turn, particularly its digital aspect, may have on a possible mappability of literature and on the definition of an emerging field like spatial humanities, the paper will discuss the broad disciplinary spectrum of digital humanities and its possible convergences with this cartographic and spatialising trend through the changes experienced by the contemporary textual condition (from the large-scale digitation of texts to the spread of multimedia). The paper also explores the split between an eminently quantitative approach and a qualitative one, within both digital and spatial humanities, when tackling the study of texts, whether they be literary or otherwise. This duality leads to the current debate between defenders and detractors of what Franco Moretti dubbed distant reading, a critical practice that opposes the traditional method of close reading. As the paper attempts to argue, that distant perspective is closely linked to the cartographic turn and does not necessarily involve using exclusively quantitative tools and giving up close reading as a means of accessing texts. In this sense, through the underlying concept of some literary GIS and of the emerging notion of deep or thick mapping, the paper argues for the possibility of a telescopic reading which, as part of the approaches and interests of spatial and digital humanities, combines quantitative and qualitative methods and makes a distant focus (that is, cartographic) compatible with a close reading of texts.


Literature Spatial turn GIS Digital humanities Telescopic reading 



This study was undertaken as part of the research project “The projection of place: Compostela in its Geoliterary Imaginary (1844-1926). Geographic Information Systems and Spatial Humanities” (Spanish Ministry of Economy and Competitiveness; FFI2013-41361-P), directed by Fernando Cabo Aseguinolaza and taking place between 2014 and 2017.


  1. AAVV. (2009). A digital humanities manifesto 2.0. Accessed 25 February 2016.
  2. Bodenhamer, D. J. (2015). Narrating space and place. In D. J. Bodenhamer, J. Corrigan, & T. M. Harris (Eds.), Deep maps and spatial narratives (pp. 7–27). Bloomington: Indiana University Press.Google Scholar
  3. Bodenhamer, D. J., Corrigan, J., & Harris, T. M. (Eds.). (2010). The spatial humanities. GIS and the future of scholarship. Bloomington: Indiana University Press.Google Scholar
  4. Bodenhamer, D. J., Corrigan, J., & Harris, T. M. (Eds.). (2015). Deep maps and spatial narratives. Bloomington: Indiana University Press.Google Scholar
  5. Bodenhamer, D. J., Harris, T. M., & Corrigan, J. (2013). Deep mapping and the spatial humanities. International Journal of Humanities and Arts Computing, 7(1–2), 170–175.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  6. Burdick, A., et al. (2012). Digital humanities. Cambridge: Massachusetts Institute of Technology.Google Scholar
  7. Cooper, D., & Gregory, I. N. (2011). Mapping the English Lake District: a literary GIS. Transactions of the Institute of British Geographers, 36, 89–108.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  8. Corrigan, J. (2015). Genealogies of emplacement. In D. J. Bodenhamer, J. Corrigan, & T. M. Harris (Eds.), Deep maps and spatial narratives (pp. 54–71). Bloomington: Indiana University Press.Google Scholar
  9. Cosgrove, D. (1999). Introduction: Mapping meaning. In D. Cosgrove (Ed.), Mappings (pp. 1–23). London: Reaktion Books.Google Scholar
  10. Dear, M. (2011). Afterword. Historical moments in the rise of geohumanities. In M. Dear et al. (Eds.), Geohumanities. Art, history, text at the edge of place (pp. 309–314). London: Routledge.Google Scholar
  11. Gooding, P., Terras, M., & Warwick, C. (2013). The myth of the new: Mass digitization, distant reading, and the future of the book. Literary and Linguistic Computing, 28(4), 629–639.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  12. Gregory, I. N., Cooper, D., Hardie, A. & Ryson, P. (2015). Spatializing and analyzing digital texts. Corpora, GIS, and places. In D. J. Bodenhamer, J. Corrigan & T. Harris (Eds.), Spatial narratives and deep maps (pp. 150–178). Bloomington: Indiana University Press.Google Scholar
  13. Gregory, I. N., & Geddes, A. (2014). From historical GIS to spatial humanities: Deepening scholarship and broadening technology. In I. N. Gregory & A. Geddes (Eds.), Toward spatial humanities. Historical GIS and spatial history (pp. ix–xix). Bloomington: Indiana University Press.Google Scholar
  14. Harris, T. M. (2015). Deep geography-deep mapping. Spatial storytelling and a sense of place. In D. J. Bodenhamer, J. Corrigan & T. Harris (Eds.), Spatial narratives and deep maps (pp. 28–53). Bloomington: Indiana University Press.Google Scholar
  15. Harris, T. M., Bergeron, S., & Rouse, L. J. (2011). Humanities GIS. Place, spatial storytelling and immersive visualization in the humanities. In M. Dear et al. (Eds.), Geohumanities. Art, history, text at the edge of place (pp. 226–240). London: Routledge.Google Scholar
  16. Hess-Lüttich, E.W. B. (2012). Spatial turn: On the concept of space in cultural geography and literary theory, meta-carto-semiotics. Journal for Theoretical Cartography, 5, 1–11.
  17. Jacob, C. (1996). Towards a cultural history of cartography. Imago Mundi, 48, 191–197.Google Scholar
  18. Jockers, M. L. (2013). Macroanalysis. Digital methods and literary history. Champaign: University of Illinois.Google Scholar
  19. Juvan, M. (2015). From spatial turn to GIS-mapping of literary cultures. European Review, 23(01), 81–96.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  20. Khadem, A. (2012). Annexing the unread: A close reading of ‘Distant Reading’. Neohelicon, 39, 409–421.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  21. McGann, J. (2014). A new republic of letters. Memory and scholarship in the age of digital reproduction. Cambridge: Harvard University Press.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  22. Moretti, F. (1997). Atlante del romanzo europeo 1800-1900. Torino: Einaudi.Google Scholar
  23. Moretti, F. (2000). Conjectures on world literature. New Left Review, 1, 54–68.Google Scholar
  24. Moretti, F. (2004). Graphs, maps, trees. Abstract models for literary history 2. New Left Review, 26, 79–103.Google Scholar
  25. Piatti, B. (2008). Die Geographie der Literatur. Schauplätze, Handlungsräume, Raumphantasien. Göttingen: Wallstein.Google Scholar
  26. Piatti, B., Reuschel, A.-K., Bär, H. R., Cartwright, W., & Hurni, L. (2009). Mapping literature: Towards a geography of fiction. In W. Cartwright, M. Peterson, & G. Gartner (Eds.), Cartography and art (pp. 179–194). Wiesbaden: Springer.Google Scholar
  27. Presner, T. (2014). The humanities in the digital humanities. In T. Presner, D. Shepard, & Y. Kawano (Eds.), HyperCities. Thick mapping in the digital humanities (pp. 22–65). Cambridge: Harvard University Press.Google Scholar
  28. Ramsay, S. (2003). Toward an algorithmic criticism. Literary and Linguistic Computing, 18(2), 167–174.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  29. Ramsay, S. (2007). Algorithmic criticism. In R. Siemens & S. Schreibman (Eds.), A companion to digital literary studies (pp. 478–491). Oxford: Blackwell.Google Scholar
  30. Reuschel, A.-K., & Hurni, L. (2011). Mapping literature: Visualization of spatial uncertainty in fiction. The Cartographic Journal, 48(4), 293–308.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  31. Reuschel, A.-K., Piatti, B., & Hurni, L. (2013). Modelling uncertain geodata for the literary atlas of Europe. In K. Kriz (Ed.), Understanding different geographies (pp. 135–157). Berlin: Springer.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  32. Richardson, D. (2011). Spatial histories: Geohistory. In M. Dear et al. (Eds.), Geohumanities. Art, history, text at the edge of place (pp. 209–214). London: Routledge.Google Scholar
  33. Ridge, M., Lafreniere, D., & Nesbit, S. (2013). Creating deep maps and spatial narratives through design. International Journal of Humanities and Arts Computing, 7(1–2), 176–189.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  34. Schreibman, S., Siemens, R. & Unsworth, J. (2004). The digital humanities and humanities computing: An introduction. In A companion to digital humanities (pp. xxiii–xxvii). Oxford: Blackwell.Google Scholar
  35. Siemens, R., & Schreibman, S. (2007). Editor’s Introduction. In A companion to digital humanities (pp. xviii–xx). Oxford: Blackwell.Google Scholar
  36. Sinclair, S. (2003). Computer-assisted reading: Reconceiving text analysis. Literary and Linguistic Computing, 18(2), 175–184.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  37. Stockhammer, R. (2013). Exokeanismós. The (un)mappability of literature. Primerjalna Književnost, 36(2), 123–138.Google Scholar
  38. Sui, D. Z. (2004). GIS, cartography and the ‘Third Culture’: Geographic imaginations in the computer age. The Professional Geographer, 56(1), 62–72.Google Scholar
  39. Warf, B. (2015). Deep mapping and neogeography.  In D. J. Bodenhamer, J. Corrigan & T. Harris (Eds.), Spatial narratives and deep maps (pp. 134–149). Bloomington: Indiana University Press.Google Scholar
  40. Warf, B., & Arias, S. (2009). Introduction: The reinsertion of space into the social sciences and humanities. In B. Warf & S. Arias (Eds.), The spatial turn: Interdisciplinary perspectives (pp. 1–10). Abington: Routledge.Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Akadémiai Kiadó, Budapest, Hungary 2017

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Facultad de LetrasUniversidad de ExtremaduraCáceresSpain

Personalised recommendations