In recent years there has been an increasing critical interest in the connections between literature and place, especially in the ways in which place figures not only as a subject and a setting but in the writer's location – and attitude to it – during the process of composition. Cartographies of Culture takes this interest as its starting-point and argues that, in the Anglophone literature of Wales, maps are a means of signalling and contesting cultural difference and emplacement. It offers both a theoretical framework which draws on a wide range of recent academic work (in its introduction) and detailed analyses of the maps (literal, literary, political, social and historical) which lie behind and beneath five pieces of writing in different genres: Wordsworth's 'Tintern Abbey', a sermon by Gerard Manley Hopkins, Tide-Race and The Water-Castle by Brenda Chamberlain, and Waldo Williams's poem 'Mewn Dau Gae' (In/Between Two Fields), whose allusions and sub-text are effectively teased out by an analytical comparison of eight English translations of the poem and the original Welsh text.
The book draws very effectively on detailed material from a wide range of disciplines: for example, a hydrographical survey of the river Severn and graphs of its tidal range at Avonmouth for July 1798, a map of the Sea of Galilee superimposed on one of the Vale of Clwyd, John Piper's watercolours of Snowdonia, Iwan Bala's 're-mapping' of Victorian cartoon representations of the map of Wales, and the history of the division of Korea after the Korean War of 1950–3. The book ends with a proposal for a Digital Literary Atlas of Wales.
Throughout, the book's focus is on the specificities of the maps under consideration, especially on the information they provide on borders and lines of division (geographical, cartographical, social, political, literary, linguistic) and on the way these specificities relate to processes of transition, location and belonging. Its strength lies in the way it integrates a wealth of varied and very specific detail and a rigorously-argued theoretical analysis into a new critical approach to literary geography.
Gwyneth Tyson Roberts
It is possible to use this review for promotional purposes, but the following acknowledgment should be included: A review from www.gwales.com, with the permission of the Welsh Books Council.
Gellir defnyddio'r adolygiad hwn at bwrpas hybu, ond gofynnir i chi gynnwys y gydnabyddiaeth ganlynol: Adolygiad oddi ar www.gwales.com, trwy ganiatâd Cyngor Llyfrau Cymru.
Introduction Triangulating Welsh Writing in English
Chapter 1 Mapping Borders: ‘Tintern Abbey’ and Literary Hydrography
Chapter 2 Mapping the Miracle: Hopkins and the Psychocartography of Welsh Space
Chapter 3 Mapping Islandness: Brenda Chamberlain’s Celtic Archipelagos
Chapter 4 Mapping Moatedness: Brenda Chamberlain’s European Archipelagos
Chapter 5 Mapping Partition: Waldo Williams, ‘In Two Fields’, and the 38th Parallel
Conclusion The Digital Literary Atlas of Wales
Dr Damian Walford Davies is a reader in English at Aberystwyth University.
Cartographies of Culture - New Geographies of Welsh Writing in English offers a pioneering new examination of the links between maps and imaginative writing. Concerned to draw literary studies and geography into a fruitful dialogue, the book offers a genuinely interdisciplinary study of literary texts in relation to the spatialities of culture. Taking the anglophone literature of Wales as its main ‘data field’, the book offers a boldly imaginative and stringently theorised analysis of five literary ‘maps’. What emerges is nothing less than a new way of reading literature through, and as, maps.