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Maps and mapping : the intersection of colonial adventure stories and maps

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Turner, VF 2013 , 'Maps and mapping : the intersection of colonial adventure stories and maps', Coursework Master thesis, University of Tasmania.

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Abstract

In the mid-to-late nineteenth-century adventure stories proliferated. Britain's imperial expansion-her ongoing conquest and colonisation of faraway lands-created an excitement and fascination with geography and maps. This interest in what lay beyond Britain's shores led to a rise in stories set in exotic locations instead of the domestic sphere and for stories that allowed for escapist imaginings. Simply put, there was a space created for stories about encounters with the "other" that exists beyond the realms of usual experience and for an elsewhere that differs immensely from home. A starting point for the usage of a narrated mapping process and a map in colonial fiction is Daniel Defoe's Robinson Crusoe (1719). This novel captures readers' imaginations with a depiction of a castaway on a tropical island. Although the first edition did not contain a map of the island, the fourth edition (dated 7 August 1719) includes a map. In this edition it is labelled as "A MAP of the WORLD, on wch. is Delineated the Voyages of ROBINSON CRUSO"' (Phillips 15). The island that Defoe describes is given a position on a map of the world with "dotted lines inked in by the novelist himself to show where Crusoe had voyaged" (Byrd 29) which, as Richard Phillips explains, "led many readers to believe they were reading a 'real' map and a 'true' story, in which geographical facts were faithfully represented" (15). By including a map in later editions Defoe presents a space that can be visualised. Defoe's novel had an enormous influence upon later fiction and Phillips asserts the retelling and imitation of Robinson Crusoe "mapped Britain, on the one hand, and the British Empire, on the other (17). More than a century later, R. M. Ballantyne's The Coral Island (1857) was published. Ballantyne used a similar plot to Defoe but portrayed three boys shipwrecked upon a deserted island. The eldest boy, Ralph, explores the island and he, like Crusoe, gives a detailed account of his impressions. He describes finding, "the highest point of the island, and from it we saw our kingdom, lying as it were, like a map around us. As I have always thought it impossible to get a thing properly into one's understanding without comprehending it, I shall beg the reader's patience for a little while I describe our island ... (44). Ralph describes his surroundings, reading them like a map by giving approximations of distance, heights of mountains, type of vegetation, varying terrains and the island's location in relation to other islands. A mental cartographic representation is enabled through Ralph' s reading of the landscape. He gives us a word map or narrated map that Matthew Graves conceptualises as, "language constructions whose spatial extension is left to the imagination of the reader, creating the illusion of mimesis" (3). This type of mapping, like a graphic map, gives an air of reality to the location. Readers use the images words project to recreate the island in their imagination and this persuades readers to believe in the truth of the story. The usage of word maps and graphic maps thus enables the representation, in a different medium, of the physical world.
Robert Louis Stevenson's Treasure Island (1883), H. Rider Haggard's King Solomon's Mines (1885) and Rudyard Kipling's "The Man Who Would Be King" (1888) are colonial adventure fictions published within the same decade that offer exciting adventures. Each story is set in a remote location such as the island of Treasure Island, or a place that presents as island-like such as Kukuanaland in King Solomon's Mines and Kafiristan in "The Man Who Would Be King". These "land-islands" are clearly demarcated and set apart from the rest of the world. To reach these spaces readers and characters are provided with a map and a purpose-the lure of treasure. Treasure Island and King Solomon's Mines descriptively chart these unknown spaces and also provide a graphic version of a map to support the narrator's descriptions. In "The Man Who Would Be King" the characters refer to graphic maps but these are not included in the narrative. In each story the map has a different format. Treasure Island's map is a detailed graphic image, King Solomon's Mines' map is a simple sketch and "The Man Who Would Be King" relies on words to map Kafiristan, as well as the implied images of the published maps referred to by Daniel Dravot and Peachey Camehan.
Critical cartographers J.B. Harley and David Woodward define maps as "graphic representations that facilitate a spatial understanding of things, concepts _conditions, processes, or events in the human world" (6). However a map is much more than the diagrammatic representation Harley and Woodward describe. Although maps impart geographical information, the very act of reading a map transforms it from a mere visual representation into an alluring invitation to characters and readers to enter a space where geography interacts with imagination. When used in fictional narratives a map provides an interface between the text and the world it refers to and a reader is connected to the characters by the shared act of reading a map. Graphic and narrated maps bond particularly well with fiction because maps and fiction deal with place, space, and the structuring of worlds. However, fiction superimposes a story upon its graphic and narrated maps so that the map becomes, as geocritic Robert T. Tally Jr. describes, "infused with the places that it explores, and that makes it [the map] what it is" (51).
The journey to an imaginary space is a journey to an elsewhere where, Phillips notes "anything seems possible and adventure seems inevitable. In these malleable spaces writers and readers of adventure stories dream of the world(s) they might find the adventures they might have, the kinds of men and women they might become"(3). Philips omits the characters in this statement but the act of dreaming must include them as it is through the characters' experiences that the reader lives vicariously. In Treasure Island, Jim Hawkins "brooded by the hour together over the map" (36). In King Solomon's Mines, Allan Quatermain carries a facsimile of a map that launched three other men, all of who dreamed of finding treasure, into adventure. Quatermain's possession of the map indicates the hold a map takes of the imagination. His innate curiosity is aroused and he cannot discard the map in spite of his wife's avowal that it is "all nonsense" (21) instead he carries a copy of the map with him. The map is, for Quatermain, his own licence to dream. In "The Man Who Would Be King", Dravot and Carnehan dream of "going away to be Kings" (252) and "establish[ing] a Dynasty" (253) and instinctively seek out the editor of the local newspaper in order to be shown his maps. When the pair are led into "the stifling office with the maps on the walls" Dravot remarks, '"That's something like ... This was the proper shop to come to."' (251). Peter Turchi notes that the invitation to dream is one of the functions of a map and that the inclusion of a map in a fictional work, "invites us to inhabit its world but also to see around it and beyond it too - to see our own world through it" (67). This elasticity of maps is a function that makes them so compelling, not only are they a useful tool but they act like a magic carpet allowing us to be whisked away to faraway places.
A map functions in different ways according to who is reading it. Characters and readers approach a map with different expectations and intentions therefore a map becomes more than a representation of the landscape. For characters, a map not only enables the journey to an unknown place it enables dreams of adventure and the fulfilment of desires. For readers, a map is a visual tool that aids navigation of the story but it is also infused with social, moral and political information. The maps found, or referred to in the three texts establish the space to be ventured to by characters and readers and initiate a journey that bridges the gap between the known and unknown worlds. Phillips explains that "geographies of adventure accommodate politics of resistance to dominant constructions of imperialism and masculinity" (13). Close readings of the graphic maps of Treasure Island and King Solomon's Mines reveal that they are invested with social and cultural content that the writer unconsciously inserts. For curious readers maps divulge meanings that their writers may never have intended.

Item Type: Thesis - Coursework Master
Authors/Creators:Turner, VF
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Copyright 2013 the author – The University is continuing to endeavour to trace the copyright owner(s) and in the meantime this item has been reproduced here in good faith. We would be pleased to hear from the copyright owner(s).

Additional Information:

Thesis (MA(English))--University of Tasmania, 2013. Includes bibliographical references

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