This US exhibition explores construction of made-up worlds through maps, novels

  • Arts
  • Thursday, 20 Jan 2022

A map from front endpapers to 'The Odyssey Of Homer'. Nearly 70 vintage maps and books make up the 'Mapping Fiction' exhibit at the Huntington Library in San Marino, California. Photo: AFP

Readers may feel lost when faced with the vastness and complexity of the fantasy worlds imagined by George Martin and J.R.R Tolkien. A new exhibit at the Huntington Library in California helps them explore the geography of these fictional universes.

Nearly 70 vintage maps and books make up the Mapping Fiction exhibition. They provide insight into how authors such as Robert Louis Stevenson, Lewis Carroll and James Joyce created imaginary worlds, both similar and dissimilar to our own.

Literary enthusiasts will discover maps that appear in early editions of the Lord Of The Rings trilogy, Treasure Island and Gulliver's Travels. They can also admire the landscapes that Octavia E. Butler dreamed up for her unfinished novel, Parable Of The Trickster.

Plunge into the Dublin of James Joyce

A section of the Mapping Fiction exhibition is dedicated to James Joyce's epic novel, Ulysses. The writer tells the story of Leopold Bloom's odyssey through Dublin on June 16, 1904. While the novel is deeply anchored in the geographical reality of the Irish capital, descriptions and topographical indications are rare.

"Joyce adamantly did not want Ulysses published with a schema, a map of Dublin, any type of explanation really," outlined Karla Nielsen, curator of literary collections at The Huntington and curator of the exhibition, in a statement. "His resistance provoked me to think about how maps function when inset into a print novel. How do they influence how readers imagine the narrative?"

The Mapping Fiction exhibition runs through May 2 at the Huntington Library in San Marino, California. It coincides with the centennial of the publication of James Joyce's Ulysses. On this occasion, the library will also host a conference dedicated to the particular cartography of the Irish writer's novel from Feb 2-4. - AFP

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