Mapping Joaquín: How Literary Cartography Opens New Perspectives on the Western Novel

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Papers & Publications: Interdisciplinary Journal of Undergraduate Research, ISSN: 2325-2502, Vol: 5, Issue: 1, Page: 10

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Kokula, Reinhild R. I.
literary cartography; joaquin murieta; Western; literary geography; mapping; john rollin ridge; yellow bird; California; literature; Hispanics; Euro-Americans; American Literature
article description
Scholars like Peter Turchi argue that the relationship between literature and geography is important to consider when looking at a text. While this discipline, called literary cartography, is on the forefront in Europe, it is only seldom considered by American scholars. My paper shows that a simple literary cartography approach allows us to read a novel from a new perspective. For this purpose I have chosen “The Life and Adventures of Joaquín Murieta” by John Rollin Ridge which follows the fictionalized Mexican bandit Joaquín Murieta on his exploits through California. Through pinning each place in the novel onto a Google Map and tracing them chronologically, we create a map that shows the area he covers and his journey. This allows us to read the novel as a travelogue, while further work may allow us to layer data on socio-economic status, population and other aspects of 1850 California to draw further conclusions. Using the approach of literary cartography, we can reestablish this novel as an important historical artifact because it is the first novel published in California as well as the first novel published by a Native American and because it maps a realistic journey through California. I argue that using literary cartography as a means of text analysis opens up new perspectives to literature and helps us connect fictional texts to reality while shedding new light on the importance of literary cartography to literary criticism.