Tom Conley: "The Cartographic Imagination from the Early Modern to the Post-Modern"

Wednesday, March 19, 2014; 6:00pm - 7:00pm

Campus Location: Classroom Building 1, Room 205

“While the map indeed becomes a scientific object, along its creases, on its borders, still even in the white spaces of its remaining tracts of terrae incognitae, it attests to the presence of imaginary cartographies. The writer, the poet and the architect of scientific fiction are present in the studio of the cartographer or the wings of the theatrum where they might otherwise be bit players or extras. Thus, instead of locating fantastic heterotopias in works of the early modern canon whose writing, both literally and figuratively derives from maps—Rabelais, Cervantes, Shakespeare—I should like to see where the scientific map, strive as its author might to produce an accurate chart, refuses to expunge fantasy from figuration. At stake is an investigation of the river, the subject of “potamography”, the depiction of the paths that running waters take in early modern topographies, whose direct analogues on modern maps are seen, first, in the swaths of Interstate Highways and turnpikes distorting the scale and proportion of road atlases and now, more immediately, on the GPS screens mounted on the dashboards of practically every vehicle of our day. The road map yields a clue to what their fluvial antecedents might have inspired among the early modern cartographers and viewers, be it to prod inquiry or to whet our imagination, we wish we were.”


Tom Clark Conley is Lowell Professor in the Departments of Romance Languages and Visual and Environmental Studies at Harvard University and won a Guggenheim Fellowship in 2003 for his work in topography and literature in Renaissance France. Conley studies relations of space and writing in literature, cartography, and cinema. His work moves to and from early modern France and issues in theory and interpretation in visual media.

Hosted by the UCF Department of English, UCF Center for Humanities & Digital Research, and the Texts & Technology Ph.D. program

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