Mapping a Text

English 331 Project Suite

Project #3: Mapping a Text


During the course of this semester, we will engage deeply with literature as conceived by our traditional humanities and English curriculum. This involves developing an awareness and appreciation for our literary heritage, contextualizing and analyzing works of literature within their unique historical moments, and expanding these historical contexts in order to gain insight into our own experiences. Furthermore, when engaging these texts we will work to develop problem-solving skills, critical thinking skills, recognize nuance and complexity of meaning, and express our ideas in a clear, organized, and well-reasoned manner.

It is in the expression of our ideas, the form these documents take, that we will shift our emphasis to the digital humanities and the pedagogy of “making” things that are usable by a wider audience. In short, we are replacing the traditional essay with a new-media approach to knowledge representation. This project, “Mapping a Text,” asks you to combine the essential thinking and interpretive skills of the humanities with the building of a usable, functional digital artifact that conveys your thinking to a wider audience. By posting your final projects on the UWGB Commons for the Digital and Public Humanities, you will be making your work available to an audience that extends far beyond a single professor.

The Assignment

In groups, you will work to map the geography of a text and the movements of a character (or characters) through that text. We will be reading a broad range of work this semester, so the focus for each group may vary; since each group will be approaching these projects at different times with different texts, your goal is to fit the project to what you’re reading rather than what other groups might have done previously.

Your group’s map must include:

  • A minimum of 10 “points of interest.” Each of these points should be marked by a relevant quotation from the text, including page numbers for reference. A point of interest might include (but is not limited to):
  1. a brief textual explanation as to why this point is indeed of interest
  2. a posed question about this location that would require a viewing audience to use critical-thinking skills to address
  3. an exact location given in the narrative (a country, a city, a street)
  4. pictures of an exact or approximate location (maybe even a street view, if available)
  5. links to material (audio, video, web) relevant to the interest point
  • At least two “paths” following the movements of significant characters.

Groups will post their final projects to the assigned group space in the UWGB Commons for the Digital and Public Humanities.

Note: You might want to organize, as a group, how you want to divide up responsibilities. Maybe someone deals with the geography of the book as a whole, while others track specific characters. Maybe you will divide the work up by chapter and keep track of place names. Whatever works best for you.

Evaluation and Support

Maps will be evaluated on how well they meet the objectives outlined above, as well as clarity, creativity, organization, attention to detail, and design. You should experiment to make your maps as dynamic and innovative as possible. Use the software’s capabilities to its fullest!

In addition to your professor, you can get technical support through Google Earth tutorials, and see some examples of files here:


There is a learning curve with Google Earth, but the tutorials are very helpful, especially with basic functions like marking a place of interest and creating a path.  Also, saving your work is the key! For simplicity’s sake, you should all work on the same “kmz” file (this is the type of file used for Google Earth). Any additions or edits make to maps on Google Earth must be saved in this kmz file—I will check to make sure we can do so on the Commons site. Completed maps (the kmz file) should be turned into me on the assigned due date.

Advanced Tips:

At his website, Brian Croxall has provided this incredible helpful guide:


  • In a document created in The Commons, I would like your group to collaboratively reflect on the following issues:
  • How did completing this assignment affect how you read the novel? How so?
  • Is there a level of knowledge that was provided uniquely by this assignment, beyond the initial reading itself?
  • What was your experience using Google Earth? What were the problems and how did you solve them?
  • What would I change about this assignment to make it more relevant, informative, enjoyable, challenging, or interesting?
  • Do you see a mapping project like this being helpful for literary study? Why and how?

This assignment was adopted from the work of Brian Croxall and Erin Sells projects related to Virginia Woolf’s Mrs. Dalloway.

A note on images for all projects:

One thing about new media and writing for the web is that images are more often incorporated than in traditional print, and this raises issues of permissions.  In order to remain on the right side of copyright law, here are some good things to keep in mind:

  1. Most images at Wikipedia are already available for use
  2. Be aware of what Creative Commons is. Almost every image I use at my own blog was acquired through a Creative Commons search and simply require me to credit the author. Here is the link for a Creative Commons search of sites like Flickr, Google, etc. Copy it and use it in this course:

  3. When you use an image, add a caption that credits the source. Most often, a simple: “Image: Smith” will do.