I managed to forget my copy of Moretti's book today, so unfortunately this is going to be from memory. The thing that primarily struck me about the maps section of the book was the troublesome idea that fictional spaces could be interpreted through factual maps. Though the maps and the texts are doing a similar kind of interpretation of space (just with one through diagrams and one through language), they're not necessarily doing so for the same ends. Take, for instance, the distance impressed upon the reader in Jude the Obscure between Jude's village and the university at Christminster. If we were to see both of these on a map, that distance would probably seem paltry, but for the young Jude it is an significant and importance distance. Or, for instance, the distance travelled by Pip to be in London in Great Expectations, and how much of a world away that feels for him. With our more modern reading of maps, being frequent travellers (and particularly, I'd imagine, for those used to travelling in America), the distance, again, would probably seem insignificant. A line from Swann's Way also made me think of this problem over interpreted and actual spaces: "nothing could have differed more utterly, either, from the real Balbec than that other Balbec of which I had often dreamed, on stormy days, when the wind was so strong that Fracoise, as she took me to the Champs-Eylsees, would advise me not to walk too close to the walls or I might have my head knocked off by a falling slate" (545-6). Again, what is crucial is the perception of space for the characters, rather than any fixed, proven record of the makeup of that space. Still, I'm not saying that because of this we shouldn't map fictional space, and quite on the contrary as literary students we definitely should, so that we can see where a writer develops this subjective reading of space by the character where in fact the actual space may have differed.
Submitted by Robert Yeates on Mon, 04/02/2012 - 15:07