In my role as a teacher of world/postcolonial literature, I often begin the semester with Eavan Boland’s poem, “That the Science of Cartography is Limited.” Boland lyrically relates the story of the death of two lovers on a “famine road”—a road that starving Irish workers were forced to build (and often die alongside)—to argue that maps are created by the victors of history and therefore occlude important information. This ability of literature to synthesize official maps with storytelling is the thematic focus of my Senior Seminar course this fall, with the help of a Creative Teaching Grant from my institution.
In his seminal book Macroanalysis, Matthew Jockers explains that the nature of information available to humanities scholars has changed and thus our scholarship has changed: “massive digital corpora offer us unprecedented access to the literary record and invite, even demand, a new type of evidence-gathering and meaning making” (8). During my presentation, I will explain how I have structured assignments and readings to integrate GIS mapping, using examples from Irish literature texts that I am teaching: Translations by Brian Friel and The Dancers Dancing by Éilís Ní Dhuibhne. Specifically, I will model the use of StoryMap by ESRI in my course to articulate an understanding of the relationship between space and meaning and demonstrate how a student might approach the course project on mapping using Irish literary texts. I will close by outlining a few best practices when beginning a Digital Humanities teaching project using GIS mapping.