…what do literary maps allow us to see? Two things, basically. First, they highlight the ortgebunden, place-bound nature of literary forms: each of them with its peculiar geometry, its boundaries, its spatial taboos and favorite routes. And then, maps bring to light the internal logic of narrative: the semiotic domain around which a plot coalesces and self-organizes. Literary form appears thus as the result of two conflicting, and equally significant forces: one working from the outside, and one from the inside. It is the usual, and at bottom the only real issue of literary history: society, rhetoric, and their interaction. –Franco Moretti (5)
I pore over maps for much the same reason almost that I read and re-read texts. Both satisfy my “rage for order”; both require insight and artifice. Geographers and creative writers seek to organize space and time, the world and our experience in it. Maps—like works of poetry, fiction, and drama—rarely reveal all of their meanings during one examination. When I read closely a place’s literature and its maps—those produced at different times by different authors and cartographers—my comprehension of life in that locality intensifies, even if it is the one I inhabit. And these charts and narratives have not only a resemblance, but, as Franco Moretti asserts, an interrelationship, influencing one another, working together to complicate our understanding of each, revealing the “real issue of literary history”: the interaction between a place, its language, and its forms (5). Authors sometimes provide a map of a work’s setting, even when, as in the case of William Faulkner, the locale is imaginary. And, conversely, a work of imaginative literature intensifies our experience of real places and their representations.