Michael J. Price Lab for Digital Humanities

Mapping the “Divine Comedy”

Mapping the “Divine Comedy”

A DH Study in Dante’s Geographical Imagination

Andrea Gazzoni

Ph.D. Candidate, Italian Studies

Co-Investigators: 

Kevin Brownlee, Professor of French and Italian, Romance Languages

Funding Period: 
May, 2015June, 2016

Mapping the Divine Comedy project website:
http://www.mappingdante.com/

How did Dante translate into "The Divine Comedy" the knowledge of places and spaces provided by his own experience and culture? How can we represent an author’s geographical imagination in order to highlight its relevance and complexity? With the project Mapping the “Divine Comedy,” researchers will try to answer such questions by building a proof-of-concept for the representation of the geographical imagination of literary works: a GIS-based map with all the places mentioned in Dante’s encyclopaedic poem.

The map will allow users to visualize and sort places according to a number of literary, cultural, and geographical categories, in order to explore the connections between text and geography, and to find new ones as well. Each place name will be visualized according to its distinctive features, which depends both on the specificity of the passage in which it appears and on its status in late Medieval culture.  Multi-layered representations were typical of pre-modern geography, and today GIS tools give us the opportunity to bring this quality back into our spatial visualization of a literary work for research and teaching purposes.

Building this kind of map is not only a way to find possible new answers. It is also a task that produces new questions by which we can interrogate our corpus and dataset. By problematizing the task of  tagging, defining and visualizing places on a map, this project calls for reflection on the ways in which we construct our own spatial representations and projects them on a corpus of texts or documents shaped by a different geographical experience.