Jane Austen

Northanger Abbey

It can be difficult for a reader to imagine the setting and fully understand the history of the locations in a novel when it is not presented in a visual method. When a novel takes place in a real-life setting, it can be mapped and better understood using Google Maps. Using Google Maps as a tool, Catherine Morland’s journey through Bath to Northanger Abbey can be more easily followed, and the relationships between locations and landmarks can be better understood. I would argue that Google Maps can make an otherwise complicated, confusing novel much more engaging and accessible.

Using Google Maps with My Favorite Book

I used Google Maps to map the locations, fictional homes placed in real towns, of my favorite novel, Pride and Prejudice.  I used points to show the different locations mentioned, with different colors representing different homes or towns.  I also used the map to show the probably route that Elizabeth Bennet travels with her aunt and uncle, the Gardiners.  All of the locations from their trip are in the same color of blue to show the route that they took.  Unlike in Araby, there are no clear directions in the novel as to exactly their path, but multiple cities and towns are mentioned that they stop through.  So, I mapped the towns and drew a connect-the-dots-style pathway between them to suggest how they might have traveled.  

Using Google maps to trace my favorite book gave me a whole new perspective on the story.  I had not realized just how far away everything was from each other.  When reading the novel, distance didn't seem to me to be an incredible factor.  I assumed that all the towns mentioned were relatively near each other location-wise.  I had no idea that Rosings Park and Pemberley were 145 miles apart, as the crow flies. I would have thought that they were much closer, seeing as how Darcy just shows up at his aunt's house because he wants to.  I would have thought that London would have been a bit farther from Longbourne than 22 miles, since the Bingley's early withdrawal to town created so much drama for the small town.  Using the map is a whole new way to experience the story, to learn more about what life was like for the characters.  I really enjoyed this project!

I am English Major, Hear Me Roar

Not unlike many of my university friends, I came into college with a completely different major than I currently have.  I came into college as a Communications major, with every intention of becoming a broadcast reporter someday.  In high school, I was heavily involved in my school's journalism team.  We became a tight knit group and I was convinced that journalism was what I wanted to do for the rest of my life. While decided what classes to take for my sophomore year, I realized that all the classes that I wanted to take were English classes.  None of the classes in any other major were as appealing to me as the English classes. 

Now, over a year after making that decision, I couldn't be happier.  Unlike a large portion of English majors, my parents were and are very supportive of my switch.  My dad was an English major, among other majors, in college and has found what he learned as an English major more useful to him as an adult than any of his math or chemistry classes.  I am of the opinion that being an English major prepares you for almost any career.  Being able to write well and express my thoughts clearly in writing is a skill that will take me far in whatever career I end up in.  

People tell me all the time that getting a degree in English is basically getting an MRS degree or even pre-unemployment.  But I have learned so much more than I would have in other fields.  I have learned how to analyze writings and read closely to glean from the text all that I can.  I enjoy learning different trends in writing and being able to categorize something that I read as Realist or Transcendentalist or Romantic and know what that means.  Most of all, I have learned how to study different texts and how to use those texts to formulate an argument and support my ideas.  

Being an English major means that I am not only learning skills that will benefit me no matter what career I choose, but I am doing it while studying things that I love, such as Shakespeare and Jane Austen.  Being an English major means that my learning is fun learning, because I can honestly think of nothing better than an entire class dedicated to my favorite author. 


mapping lab

I decided to map a few pages of Jane Austen's novel, Mansfield Park. In Volume III, Chapter X, Fanny Price is at home in Portsmouth with her family. (She's been at Mansfield Park with her aunts, uncles, and cousins for about 8 years and this is her first time home since then.) Henry Crawford, who is romantically interested in Fanny (but who disgusts her) visits her in Portsmouth and asks her to join him for an early morning walk. Fanny and her sister Susan agree to go out.

The map of their path is below. Red balloons indicate destinations at which they stop, while bue balloons represent locations where the characters don't necessarily stop to do something but where something noteworthy happens along their way.

View an early walk in a larger map


This section of the novel, though very brief, is extremely important to the plot, because it marks the beginning of Fanny's heart softening toward Mr. Crawford, whom she had previously despised. Considering her firm character, this wavering is an unexpected twist that heightens the uncertainty of the outcome up until the climax, when the Crawfords are proven to be unworthy afterall. Mapping this short journey sheds some light on the way Mr. Crawford manipulates Fanny into believing him "decidedly improved."

First of all, concretely visualizing the setting puts it into perspective: the entire walk (including the reverse return trip home) was probably less than a mile. This shows how Fanny is so in-tune with the details of Mr. Crawford's actions. First, he is a gateway for her to escape her noisy, ill-mannered family, even if they're only going a half-mile from their house. She pays attention to every time he helps them cross the street; she notices that it was his deed to detain their father long enough for them to complete their mother's errands; she appreciates "the notice he took of Susan" during the walk. All of this in a very short journey, and already she is inclined to reevaluate her opinion of him.

In addition, the shortness of the walk makes it believable later in the novel when readers find that Mr. Crawford only tried to exert himself toward being a better person in hopes of gaining Fanny's favor. Since he turns out to be nothing but a dandy anyway, it makes sense that he could keep up his good face for a short walk. Perhaps on a much longer one it would have been more difficult for him to maintain this favorable impression.

It was also kind of a fun investigation to find decide where to place Fanny's house and the part of the dock-yards they would have visited. First I that instead of finding "High Street" in Portsmouth, I needed to find "Old Portsmouth" or modern-day Canalside (across the canal from Gosport). Then I mapped a route between Northampton (where Mansfield Park was) to Old Portsmouth to try to follow how Fanny would have come in to her parents' city, and from there try to pick out which "narrow road" off of the "high street" might have been the one they lived on. The place I chose to put their house is somewhat arbitrary but I think it is a reasonable choice based on the description from the novel and the fact that they needed to be able to walk to the main road and the dock-yards from home. I found this activity really interesting!