A New Literary Geography: Establishing a Digital Literary Atlas of Wales and its Borderlands.

Lead Research Organisation: Cardiff University
Department Name: Cardiff School of Planning and Geography

Abstract

This project is an interdisciplinary demonstration of the power of literary geography to offer insight into the vital connections between people, literature and land. The project will create and evaluate an interactive website, The Digital Literary Atlas of Wales and its Borderlands (DLAW). The DLAW will innovatively map twelve classic and contemporary fictions set in Wales in order to challenge outdated approaches to literary geography, and demonstrate the potential of 'new literary geography'. This will be undertaken in order to: 1) encourage the critical and active reading of fictional narratives; 2) promote understanding of how literature can help strengthen individual and community identity; and 3) enhance cultural tourism.

The first phase of the project will create the DLAW. In line with existing approaches to literary mapping, the DLAW will begin with mapping geographical reference points noted in novels. However, these 'distant maps' will be supplemented with 'deep' mapping data, or detailed localities information (including Census data, local histories, and cultural events, in statistical, visual, and written form) about each chosen area. The project will work closely with the Wales Institute for Social and Economic Research (WISERD) who co-ordinate this data and will support its translation onto the DLAW. Coupled to this, the DLAW will offer the reader the opportunity to position themselves within the location by mapping walking routes which explicitly outline the connections between fiction and places. These routes will be supplemented with directions, author commentaries, narrative excerpts, critical discussion, images and sound. The DLAW will also introduce a new way to engage readers with literary geography through superimposing excerpts from fictions onto images from the mapped routes. By engaging with technological developments in web design and geographical mapping, readers will be able to 'scroll' through these placed stories on their computer, as easily as turning the pages of a book or atlas. Due to the digital nature of this resource, users will also be able to follow these augmented routes in a practical sense too, walking them in real places, maintaining virtual support from a wifi tablet or smartphone connection. Active at the end of phase one, the DLAW will be an open access public resource, democratizing access to literary maps, narrative debates, and real places. The DLAW will function as a site through which all individuals will be able to re-imagine their relations between literature and geography.
The second phase of the project will critically evaluate the benefits of the DLAW, both economically and culturally. This phase will be split into three parts. Firstly, the project will appraise the cultural potential of the DLAW to encourage reading and stimulate interest in particular localities. 18 focus groups will be recruited to examine how the DLAW changes the ways in which readers engage with fictions and their geographies. Secondly, 12 literary tours will be undertaken with the focus groups, 2 of which will be public events, managed and publicized by Project Partner Literature Wales. These events will take the form of walking tours held with the authors of the fiction or academic experts, and give the public the opportunity to engage with the fictions, experts, and locations in practice. During these tours, participants will be interviewed and surveys undertaken to evaluate the cultural and economic value of the DLAW. Thirdly, online surveys will appraise the interest generated in fiction and location through the DLAW. The broader insights on the power of literary mapping to change the ways we read, write, and experience literature, and the cultural and economic benefits of doing so, will have impact beyond Wales. The third phase of the project will communicate these insights in policy reports, academic papers, international festivals, conferences, open public events, and the DLAW itself.

Planned Impact

This project will secure positive impact to publics in Wales, and open pathways to secure positive impact to publics beyond Wales, through demonstrating how innovation in literary geography can secure a wide range of social benefits.
To plotline communities, the project will offer distant and deep maps of localities to enable a fresh interrogation of their own, and others' history, landscape, and literature;
To local communities in general, the project will stimulate a reconsideration of the importance of literature in generating a sense of community identity and pride in literary heritage;
To disability groups within a community, the project will secure benefit to those with restricted vision through offering specialised audio engagement with fictions (including excerpts from novels, author interviews, and expert commentaries), and for those with restricted mobilities, the site's augmented reality (including scrolling stories in virtual reality and GIS mapping) will enable engagement with literature and landscape in new, empowering, ways.
To writing and other education groups within local communities (including lifelong learning and school groups) the project will perpetuate a sense of community identity and pride, as well as ownership of the DLAW, through offering individuals the opportunity to contribute their own micro-fictions to the ongoing cartographies of the DLAW;
To walking groups, the project will secure benefit through offering literary walking guides that can stimulate and sustain active lifestyles;
To libraries and publishers, the project will secure long term benefit through stimulating interest in books, guides, and maps associated with the DLAW;
To book clubs, the project will offer a new way to engage with literature and enhance enjoyment of the written word;
For literary organisations such as the Welsh Books Council, the project will provide sustained interest in Welsh literature.
For the general public the project will secure benefit through providing specific educational events (literary tours, managed by Project Partner Literature Wales) to contribute to the knowledge, skills, and quality of life of participants;
To businesses and the Welsh economy, this project will create financial impact through attracting tourists and other visitors to an area through the promotion of local literature via the DLAW;
For organisations such as Literature Wales, the DLAW website will diversify and strengthen the educational and cultural support available to all their public events, offer a legacy that can record and capture the 2017 events for future access and use by all, and reposition the organisation as a key contributor to literary tourism;
For institutions such as Visit Wales and the Welsh Government, the project will generate impact through understanding the role of literature in enhancing and reinforcing a sense of pride and place at the local and national level, and through doing so, feed directly into cultural tourism policy by offering briefing papers which outline new ways to understand and evaluate literary tourism and its economic benefits at the local, national, and international levels.
By demonstrating these long term social benefits at the local and national level, the project will provide evidence for the scalability and transference of the ideas behind the DLAW to other areas of the UK and beyond, as well as the potential to diversify the DLAW to include new genres, literary forms (e.g. poetry), and other cultural media (e.g. songs and films). In these ways, this project will secure a range of sustained benefits beyond the lifetime of the project that will have a lasting legacy on both economies and communities in both Wales, the UK, and other countries.

Publications


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