The scholarly principles, formulation of the problem, and research goal

Marko Juvan (Institute of Slovenian literature and literary studies ZRC SAZU), Mimi Urbanc (Anton Melik geographical institute ZRC SAZU)


The project is part of the interdisciplinary field of the spatial research of media and culture (e.g., Döring & Thielmann 2009) more precisely described by the terms “literary geography,” which has been in use since the early twentieth century, and the new formulation “spatial literary studies.” Literary studies, being a humanities discipline, has in recent decades systematically analyzed the meaning of space in the objects of its study. In so doing it connects with social (“human”) geography and contemporary technologies of mapmaking based on geographic information systems (GIS). This project proposes to answer the question of how geographic space and literature in Slovenian influenced one another in ethnically Slovenian lands from the end of the eighteenth to the middle of the twentieth centuries. How have the physical, anthropogenic, and social features of space (relief and natural borders, regional typologies, traffic routes, population concentrations, patterns of settlement, and economic and cultural development) historically influenced literary life? How has literature textually represented, invested with meaning, and valued the space in which it exists? How has literary culture influenced social understanding of space and shaped it through its cultural practices, media, and institutions? How have different group identities, especially national, referenced spaces in literature? How have spatial givens shaped the socialization of literary culture’s actors? And how have these people in the course of their lives and in their social networks linked different places, including those lying beyond the Slovenian ethnic borders?

From the perspective of current contextual methods, literature is thought to be a complex in which texts, as elements of discourse, are inherently connected with realities, actors, media, producers, and institutions in a special and to a degree autonomous field (Juvan 2006; Perenič 2010). We use the term “literary culture” to designate the field. Slovenian-language literary culture began forming in the context of the awakening of European nations, and it continued a process of differentiation into the first half of the twentieth century. In the period between the appearance of Pisanice (1779–81), the first publication intended for esthetic enjoyment, and the beginning of WW II in Slovenia (1941)—a broad swath in the development of the post-Enlightenment spirit—Slovenian literary culture and the Slovenian ethnic territory underwent successive divisions of state governance and political changes. This influenced the dynamic of the “internal” territorial distribution of Slovenian literary culture and its “external” ties to other literary fields. Using GIS, the project has analyzed data on the lives of significant literary actors, the development of the media and institutional infrastructure in the field of letters, and memories of places recorded in Slovenian historical novels. By quantitative spatial analysis of the data obtained from encyclopedic reference works and selected with respect to the literary canon, the project has, in its concluding phase, formulated answers to questions concerning the interaction of geographic space and literature. Case studies of the spatial representation in Slovenian letters from the eighteenth to the twentieth centuries on the basis of select works elucidate the central problems. The project has critically analyzed the theoretical and methodological basis of literary geography or spatial literary studies: the goal is to identify key interdisciplinary questions and perspectives that appear in joining literary scholarship with geography, and to study the possibilities for further use of GIS in the humanities in Slovenia.

Of course, treating spaces of literature and literary spaces is not new. However, the potential for positing the problem that informs this project has opened up only with the “spatial turn.”

Dating and conceptualizing the “spatial turn”

Methodological self-reflection in the humanities and social sciences since the 1980s has been marked by a shift in attention to space as an interpretive key for understanding society, history, and culture. A certain shift in the focus of humanities research from the temporal and narrative to the spatial can be connected to the early twentieth-century modernism, when nineteenth-century historicism had exhausted itself (cf., for example, Foucault 1967). Others perceive the so-called spatial turn in structuralism of the second half of the twentieth century and its influence on the humanities and social sciences (from Braudel and French New History on). Yet others connect the spatial turn with postmodern geography and theories of the late 1980s (e.g., Soja and Jameson). Evaluation of the epistemological value of the turn ranges from the conviction that it brings fundamentally new views to the humanities’ and social sciences’ objects of study and introduces a new discipline, comparable to the totality of historiography (e.g., Soja 1989, 1996; Bachmann-Medick 2006; Halle & Neumann 2009), to the opinion that the “spatial turn” is just another self-promoting slogan of postmodernist scholarship (e.g., Schlögel 2003).

The position of the project is that the turn is nothing but a shift in the structural dominant that permits scholarly discourse epistemologically to advance new or heretofore undervalued dependencies by construing spatial models from observed phenomena. An example is the historical dynamic of cultural centers and regional identities. Thematic maps of literature’s spaces and literary spaces play an important role in this. Their epistemological value has not yet been tested in Slovenia.

The development of conceptualizing spatial conditions and the humanities’ and social sciences’ objects of study

In the humanities and social sciences, space was considered a factor of human existence and society well before the spatial turn. However, it was subordinate—just as in literary history—to narrative interpretations of letters and literary life. Already Taine and the positivists saw in the “environment” a factor that determines writers and literature, yet they allocated it an ancillary role. The positivist view that the environment, a combination of natural physical and social space, determines a person took firm root (under the influence of school geographers, even Braudel considered natural space a determinant of society, its economy, and culture, as seen in his books on the Mediterranean [1949] and the “grammar of civilization” [1987]). However, at the start of the twentieth century, the sociologist Simmel (1903 [2006]), one of the forerunners of the spatial turn, altered this simplistic causal logic. He pointed out that space is not only a natural given or “container” that circumscribes and determines society, but that it is social relationships and policies that form space and lend it content and meaning. Foucault (1967), Lefebvre (1974), de Certeau (1980), Bourdieu (1989), Giddens (1986), Said (1995), and others further developed this idea starting in the 1960s. The space we live in is constantly produced, changed, imagined, planned, and invested with meaning by societal practices, technology, and relations between them.

The project’s point of departure is that the space of Slovenian literary culture is multi-layered and diverse, situated in a spatial complex of the natural physical given and the socio-culturally produced, which is also connected with spaces imagined by literature. Space has a temporal dimension that comprises the sequence and coexistence of rhythmically unlike processes. A space thus understood, one that must be even more exactly dissected (for example, according to regional typologies and demographics), does not causally determine literature (Bakhtin [1981] refuted spatial determinism already in the 1930s, as did Lotman [1977], Soja [1989], Moretti [1999, 2005], Böhme [2005], Dünne in Günzel [2006], and Stockhammer [2007] after him). Geographical space doubtless influences literature, but in such a way that by virtue of literature’s social existence it facilitates and engenders or hinders and discourages various developmental possibilities (e.g., technologically progressive transportation increase the possibility of cultural transfer). Physical geographical and socio-cultural spaces are two factors influencing the construction and meaning of textual worlds (e.g., Bakhtin’s concept of a chronotope [1981] or Lotman’s concept of the semiosphere [1990]). However, literature, too, has a reverse influence on space, by means of its material and socio-institutional reach as well as by textual structures and imagination (see Westphal [2000], Soja [1989]). Literature is involved in the social formation, production, imagination, and conceptualization of space: without literature, there would be no theater, public libraries, cultural societies, and other essentials that changed the image of the Slovenian environment. Without Prešeren’s poetry, the Savica would be simply another Slovenian waterfall; without Kosovel’s poems, the Kras region would have no poetic value in the Slovenian consciousness.

The relation between the spatial turn and geography

Philosophers, sociologist, historians, communications theorists, and literary scholars have often referred to geography in their understanding of space, even if simplistically and without citing the cousin discipline. Geographers have kept their distance from the spatial enthusiasm of other humanists and social scientists, although it was one of their own (Soja 1989, 1996) that gave currency to the “spatial turn.” Their aloofness was seen in different ways: as a deprecatingly ironic, although indulgent attitude towards almost dilettantish use of geographical terms on the part of scholars in other disciplines; as polemical refutation; or as hesitance at taking part in interdisciplinary cooperation (see Crang & Thrift 2000). Such a relation is understandable because for geography space is the fundamental epistemological category from the very beginning. The heightened interest of cultural studies and the social sciences in geography over the past two decades (Crang & Thrift 2000) is possible to explain by the fact that geography is a discipline that has successfully connected the natural physical and intellectual-cultural spheres of humans’ existence in the world. Yet contemporary geography itself has been transforming itself in recent years with a view to literary studies. This is not limited to the fashionable metaphor “the landscape is a text” (Barnes & Duncan 1992). The similarity is also in the concept of “writing” (Barnes & Duncan 1992): the term “geography” means “description of the Earth” (Duncan & Duncan 1988). Literary creations and analyses of landscapes, one of the ways of geographical investigation, are therefore interconnected. According to Crang (1998), literary narratives reveal how a space is ordered and how a stance towards a space informs social activity. Both geography and literature encompass writing about lands and spaces. Both are signifying processes that attribute meaning to territories in a specific social context (Crang 1998).


This project is a first attempt in Slovenia to prepare conceptual and evidential bases for developing literary geography and a spatial literary history. It is possible expertly to describe the space of Slovenian literary culture in cross-disciplinary cooperation with geographers. In this manner the danger of arbitrary, flawed interpretations of concepts can be greatly reduced. Geography bringS to the research of Slovenian literary culture its tested tools and new technologies—foremost in mapping, drafting thematic maps, and quantitative and qualitative analysis of data by means of GIS.

Survey and analysis of existing research and relevant scholarly literature

Marko Juvan (Institute of Slovenian literature and literary studies ZRC SAZU), Urška Perenič and Miran Hladnik (Department of Slovenian studies, Faculty of arts, Universitry of Ljubljana), Jerneja Fridl and Mimi Urbanc (Anton Melik geographical institute ZRC SAZU)

Spatial humanities and literary studies

Research in the spatially oriented social sciences and humanities has been aware of the mutual influence between space and their respective objects of study. Questions of production, reception, distribution, and storage of literature with regard to a given social and geographic environment have for a time occupied literary critics (Moretti 1999). Conversely, the discipline has dealt with literary and media impacts on living spaces. Some have even sought literary studies’ mission in analysis of the changing techniques of spatial representation (Lotman 1977, Weigel 2002, Bachmann-Medick 2006, Stockhammer 2007, Böhme 2005, Hallet & Neumann 2009).

Since the beginning of the 20th century, such a socio-constructivist understanding of space has linked individual and socio-cultural symbolic practices with physical geographic models. It thus overshadowed “deterministic” concepts, which saw space as a “vessel” for historical processes (e.g., Schlögel, Braudel). Soja (1989), who like Foucault (1967) advocated a greater role for spatial concerns in explaining cultural phenomena, pointed out the meaning of symbolic practices in the social production of space. Imagined spaces are to be understood as symbolic structures by which meanings are projected onto material spaces (Soja 1996). Thus Soja emphasized the entwining of conceptual and material factors: symbolic practices, including literary, are impinged upon by “external” spatial factors; on the other hand, they themselves stage and create spatial models. Already in the 1970s, Lefebvre—one among Soja’s theoretical models—discussed the social production of space (he also considered media and experiential space). Even before Lefebvre, Cassirer (1931) treated esthetic (including literary) spaces. He attributed to them an important role in constructing models of reality.

In literary studies, Bakhtin and Lotman situated research of esthetic spaces in a culturological context. With his notion of chronotope, Bahktin revealed the representational and performative aspects of literary spaces: whereas environment and culture shape fictional settings, textual spaces critically refract recognized spatial codes. In a similar way, Lotman connected the semantic structure of symbolic space with the historico-cultural context (semiosphere).

Moretti (1999), a today proponent of spatially oriented literary scholarship, both studies literature in space and analyzes fictional spaces in novels. He employs mapping in order to analyze the European book market around 1850, and traces the expansion of the European novel and its influence on the literary culture of different areas of Europe. Barbara Piatti (2008) uses a corpus of 150 literary texts to map variously defined geographic references in fictional settings.

It has not been possible to identify in the available scholarly literature studies that use spatial models in interdisciplinary cooperation with geography to analyze the structure of an entire literary system during an extended period. We have found mostly studies about isolated elements of literature, especially texts and authors.

The role of the map and GIS in the mapping of literary factors

At the end of the 20th century, maps sparked the interest of historians and literary scholars because of their great informativity: maps are involved in both shaping and presenting human relations with the world. Traditional cartographic definitions that cover only technical procedures and competences necessary for a perfect representation of reality have become inadequate (Pickles 1992). A deeper, postmodern analysis treats maps as “graphic texts” that belong—similarly to landscapes and architecture—among non-verbal texts (some cartographers oppose the identification of maps with verbal language [Harley 1992], even though maps and verbal language share symbolic structuring). Their authors invest maps with values and ways of thinking; consequently, maps document the development of the individual or social drive to conquer space and establish one’s situatedness in the world (cf. Stockhammer 2005). Cognitive psychology used the metaphor of mapping to describe the different domains of thought; the expression “mapping” spread through the humanities with the assistance of postmodern theory (Jameson 1991). To understand a map as a text means that we recognize in it symbolic values and subjectivity (Fridl & Urbanc 2006), which belong not only to the author but to the users as well.

Maps for studying literature have for the entire 20th century been aids for visualizing the findings of literary studies. In Europe, pioneer “literary” maps appeared already in the second half of the 19th century (Baedeker and Murray included scenes from David Copperfield in guidebooks and offered tours in the steps of Byron’s Don Juan). Later, practical guidebooks supplemented with topographic and alphabetical indexes were conceived. The visualization of literary spaces according to scientific cartographic rules begins only at the turn of the 20th century (e.g., Literary and Historical Map of London, 1899), especially with literary atlases Deutscher Literaturatlas (1907), Literaturgeschichte der deutschen Stämme und Landschaften (1912), A Literary and Historical Atlas of Europe (1912), Kulturatlas (1928–38). The purpose of atlases is apparent in maps and texts that situate writers’ lives in geographic space; gazetteers ease searches for connections between the historical contents and their locations. Many such publications do not fit the technical definitions of an atlas, yet they paved the way for its further development. Dtv-Atlas zur deutschen Literatur (Schlosser 1983) is a case in point. It offers a distilled literary historical survey of the centuries and literary trends, describing the oeuvres of the most important German writers and literary genres that predominated in each century. It comprises maps that show the locations of significant writers’ residences and where they worked. The atlas contains graphs that illustrate contemporaneous political, cultural, and literary events and works. The book’s many editions have become a standard of German literary history.

Morretti (1999, 2005) in particular began explicitly to use maps as an analytic tool for bringing literary studies closer to the scientific ideal. He mapped spaces depicted in literary texts (literary geography has recently developed markedly in this direction [e.g., Piatti 2008]), but also spaces in which literature lived. The mapping of these data, such as the number and distribution of libraries and the profile of their collections, is not only an illustration of given literary historical findings, but a tool that makes possible for literary scholarship to determine the laws of literary processes.

The project’s point of departure was the expectation that mapping historical processes would furnish new knowledge of Slovenian literary culture and empirical confirmation or rejection of existing interpretations. The map is becoming an ever more potent analytic tool thanks to the development of satellite navigation technology and GIS (cf. Bodenhamer, Corrigan & Harris 2010). GIS makes possible the spatial distribution, correlation (in the form of synthetic maps), and flexible representation of various kinds of data, foremost quantitative, but also qualitative. Although the advantages of this technology have further spurred interest in space, relations between GIS and the humanities are complex. The structure of GIS is adapted to realistic, positivist epistemology and quantitative analyses characteristic of the social sciences. Therefore, GIS would appear to be difficult to unite with the nature of the humanities, with their interest in unique, qualitative, and historical treatment of phenomena. Our project is part of the recent search for a solution by which GIS can be adapted to the special needs and methods of the humanities (i.e., GIS humanities).

Slovenian literary studies and space

Slovenian literary studies has been concerned with space in the explanatory notes to critical editions of the classics (e.g., Tavčar’s Zbrano delo [Collected works, 1951–59] under the editorship of Marja Boršnik). It was interested in the actual models for literary settings and the places the author resided. Such data were used in literary and cultural historical guides. There have been a good number of studies that treat literary depictions of actual geographic spaces in Slovenia and abroad, as well as of kinds of natural and cultural areas, regions, and settlements. Dolgan (1983) was concerned with “narrated space”; Hladnik with the rural story; and Juvan discussed the theoretical issue of literary space and the space of literature (2006). A thematic issue of Primerjalna književnost entitled Literature and Space (2004), edited by Škulj, took part in the international discussion of the topic. There have been analyses of travel literature devoted to space (Lah, Zupan Sosič) and of regionalism in literature (Hladnik). Collections of The Slavic Society of Slovenia have in recent years systematically described the spatial boundaries of literature.

Slovenian geography and literature

Literary geography has been prominent for decades, especially in the English-speaking world. Its import has increased recently because, due to its emphasis on individualism, regionalism, and identities, it is understood as a counterweight to globalization. In Slovenia, however, because of the adherence to “classical” geography, literary creations have until now not been considered a primary source. Only lately have there been initial attempts at analyses that properly belong to the field of literary geography, although the term is not used. Various currents of human geography were an influence, which underlined subjective experiences and meanings. The first Slovenian writings on literary geography explore perceptions of the environment, space, and landscape (how individuals and society experience, interpret, and value them). The geographer and philosopher Vranješ (2002, 2008) wrote on the theory of space and spatiality. Komac studied social memory on natural disasters (Komac 2009) and, together with Zorn, the ways of representing natural processes in sacred writings. Mimi Urbanc (2008a, 2008b, 2011) has been the most productive in analyzing images of the landscape, also in literary texts.

Slovenian experience with the mapping of literature and GIS

Although with globalization, which emphasizes the meaning of location, the expressions prostor 'space', kartiranje 'mapping', and geografsko zamišljanje 'geographic imagination' have become common (Warf & Arias 2009), there have not yet appeared in Slovenia studies of the methodological bases for mapping philological and cultural data. In her work, which can serve as the starting point for a cartography and mapping of Slovenian literature, Jerneja Fridl (1999) wrote on the selection of suitable mathematical elements for maps, the topographic bases, and generalization and selection of cartographic symbols for thematic maps. This aspect requires attention if one is to achieve satisfactory “readability” of maps. The present project is the first in Slovenia that has fathomed the use of GIS for determining the role of geographic factors in the distribution, formation, and historical development of literary culture. Until now, the only application of GIS tools has been for designing a set of cartographic symbols for a Slovenian linguistic atlas (ZRC SAZU).

Detailed description of the content and program of activities for the research project

Marko Juvan (Institute of Slovenian literature and literary studies ZRC SAZU), Miran Hladnik (Department of Slovenian studies, Faculty of arts, Universitry of Ljubljana), Jerneja Fridl and Mimi Urbanc (Anton Melik geographical institute ZRC SAZU)


The project’s content is divided into eight interdependent parts:

  1. A critical analysis of the epistemological, methodological, and heuristic points of departure in space-oriented humanities and social sciences and a reevaluation of the experiences of interdisciplinary connections between literary studies and geography (especially the use of geographic information systems, GIS);
  2. Collecting and structuring Slovenian literary historical data on writers, media and cultural infrastructure, and geographic spaces as represented in texts during the period 1780–1940; and inputting them into GIS system masks;
  3. Formulating an investigative plan for the structure and appearance of GIS maps; mapping data, selection of suitable cartographic means of expression, designing thematic maps and spatio-statistical data analysis;
  4. Literary historical and geographic interpretation of analyzed data, leading to the formulation of conclusions about the specific features and general patterns of interaction between ethnically Slovenian geographic space and Slovenian literary culture in its different developmental phases and social and state organizations;
  5. A synoptic and comparative literary view of synthesized data that attests to typological specificities or “persistent” structures of Slovenian literature in the wider European geopolitical context and in its macro-regions;
  6. Case studies: the representation of different kinds of geographic spaces (rural and urban, natural and settled, mountain and lowland, interior and littoral) in Slovenian literary texts of different regional origins, periods, genres, and tendencies; literary texts’ influences on the spatial anchoring of collective identities (regional, provincial, and social) and the literary imagination of landscapes and regions as signs of national identity; the literary experience of an ethnic border and foreign places; literary mimesis of collective attitudes towards the use of space; the Kras and Prekmurje as a combination of geographic space and cultural text;
  7. Creation of a practical literary atlas of Ljubljana;
  8. A comprehensive analysis of the project results and a resulting evaluation of the perspectives for the further development of literary geography, spatial literary research, and GIS in the humanities.

Main emphases of project content, hypotheses, and goals

The project team has done a thorough review of the latest research on the role of geographic space in contemporary literary studies, the humanities, and social sciences, and in particular research in the wake of the “spatial turn.” The team has evaluated the outcomes, questions, and perspectives of the interdisciplinary connection between literary studies and geography, and also recent experience with mapping data in Slovenian philology and culture studies. The focus has been on mapping literature, not only as visualization of historical data, but for use as an analytic tool with which it is possible to identify correlations that escape other methods. Project participants have familiarized themselves with recent experiences in applying GIS and similar technologies for data mapping in literary studies, philology, and the humanities.

The project relies on a conception of literature as a social subsystem or field of interpersonal, group, and institutional interaction and communication. This concept is known as literary culture. From spatially oriented humanities and social science work, in particular media studies, the project has critically selected starting points from which it is possible to develop the following idea: literary culture is on the one hand a component of geographic space (influencing literature’s media and institutional infrastructure as a physical and anthropogenic given, as well as the trajectories of the people involved and the semantics of spatial models embedded in literary works), and on the other hand a factor that represents, imaginatively contrives, socially reflects, preserves in cultural memory, and by means of its practices materially impacts geographic space. The project takes into account that Slovenian literary culture was historically formed on ethnically Slovenian territory, which was multicultural and multilingual. (From a sociolinguistic view, Slovenian began to dominate in public and private life only in the second half of the 19th century; German was long dominant in Carniola, Italian in Gorica region, and Hungarian in Prekmurje region.) During the period under study, the territory belonged to different state entities: Austrian and later the Austro-Hungarian monarchy, the Venetian Republic, Illyrian Provinces, the State of Serbs, Croatians, and Slovenians, and the Kingdom of Yugoslavia.

The project’s main thesis is that literary discourse in Slovenian could become dominantly manifest in public in two ways, in both of which space played a key role:

  • by the formation and extension of a socio-spatial network of literary actors, media, and institutions in the ethnically Slovenian territory (these networks were organized around increasingly important urban centers whose cultural capital gradually grew);
  • by Slovenian-language literary works referring to geographic spaces that according to their geographical names and described features could be recognized by the audience as Slovenian chronotopes; in this way media created an idea of a unified national space that became the basis for a national movement and a drive towards cultural and political autonomy.

The project employs GIS analysis and case studies to test whether it is also possible to support other hypotheses:

  • the development and spatial distribution of literary culture were also a function of geographic factors: settlement network, population density, economic, traffic, and cultural development in an area; internal Slovenian relations between centers and peripheries, urban and rural, changes in state borders, and the gravitational force of cultural and administrative centers outside of Slovenia;
  • by representing specific geographic spaces, literature aided the formation of regional and provincial identities;
  • literature influenced the perception and valuing of Slovenian lands and settlements and invested them with meaning.

Temporal and spatial scope of data and data sources

The project has employed GIS to study the development of interdependence and influences between geographic space predominantly inhabited by Slovenians and Slovenian literature. It includes data from the period 1780–1940: from the beginnings of artistic literature for esthetic enjoyment in Slovenian to WW II, at which time Slovenian literary culture had reached full institutional and media development and stylistic, genre, and ideological differentiation. During these centuries, the ethnically Slovenian territory belonged to different state entities with distant capitals, what was also reflected in the spatial dynamic of literary culture. We have considered spatial data from the ethnically Slovenian territory (the territory of today’s Republic of Slovenia and areas beyond its borders) and spaces that were culturally and politically bound to it (i.e., nearby Italian, Austrian, Hungarian, and South Slavic urban centers; Central and Western European centers to which Slovenian writers, critics, editors, and others gravitated). The data sources are dictionary and encyclopedic works (e.g., Slovenski biografski leksikon, Enciklopedija Slovenije, Primorski slovenski biografski leksikon, Wikipedia), synthetic literary histories (e.g., Slodnjak, Pogačnik and Zadravec), reference notes in the Zbrana dela slovenskih pesnikov in pisateljev (Collected works of Slovenian poets and prose writers), guidebooks for literary history tours, regional compilations of information, and other reference works. A thoroughgoing review of Slovenian literary studies on the subject is required to determine the available sources of data on space. What follows is a preliminary review.

Space in Slovenian literary studies (a bibliographical overview)

A keyword search in the Cobiss bibliographic system for the words prostor* 'space', dogajališče 'setting', lokacija 'location', kraj 'place', pokrajina 'land', gore 'mountains', Bela krajina (the name of a region), Prekmurje (the name of a region), Gorenjska (the name of a region), mesto 'place; town', morje 'sea', kras 'karst' (also the name of a region), Istra (the name of a region), and so forth, limited to studies of Slovenian letters (dc=821.163.6.09) or corresponding older search parameters yielded approximately 100 relevant hits. Since Cobiss entries are not complete, it is possible to glean a much larger list of publications on the theme of space. A bibliography of publications focusing on space offers a chronicle of the question and an index to the material collected that can be used in a database. Hits in chronological order show the persistent interest in spatial problematics in letters. The largest number of hits was for publications between 2004 and 2008, largely in the proceedings of the Seminar on Slovenian Language, Literature, and Culture, which was devoted to the theme of place. However, a greater number of hits have been garnered thanks to rather exact bibliographical descriptions.

Biographical and historico-cultural interest

The problem of space in literature has been of interest to scholars with different methodological approaches. Positivist concern in writers’ biographies included research of their place of birth and residence and favorite taverns. Compilers of guidebooks on literary and cultural history make good use of these interests, whether in such series as Slovstveni in kulturnozgodovinski vodnik (Guide to literary and cultural history) and Kulturni in naravni spomeniki Slovenije (Slovenia’s cultural and natural landmarks) or in single publications, as do the editors of Zbrana dela slovenskih pesnikov in pisateljev and editors of other critical commentaries to editions of the Slovenian classics. Among the most thorough students of places writers lived and places that provided models for fictional spaces was Marja Boršnik (studying Tavčar). Geographical data can also be used from the notes to editions of Vodnik, Prešeren, Trdina (including Kramberger’s contribution to the series Podobe prednikov [Images of our ancestors]), Mencinger, Jenko, Jurčič, Levstik, Stritar, Kersnik, Gregorčič, Aškerc, Ivan Cankar, Kette, Murn, Župančič, Kraigher, Gradnik, Kosovel, Finžgar, Grum, Juž Kozak, Prežihov Voranc, Majcen, and Kocbek.

Space in literary theory, interpretation, and thematic criticism

Kmecl (Mala literarna teorija, 1976, 216–22) treats “literary space” together with time in the chapter “Prelinguistic Elements” (“Predjezikovne prvine,” the subchapter on composition). Time is not as prominent in lyric poetry as in drama and narrative prose, where external reality (of author and reader) and internal or fictional time (time of the events) are distinguished. Which divisions of space the reader perceives depends on the narrative point of view, which according to Lubbock (1921) is either panoramic or scenic. The interest in setting (topos is the rhetorical term) comes to the fore in narratology (Dolgan). In Kompozicija Pregljevega pripovedništva (The composition of Pregelj’s narratives, 1983), Dolgan devotes an entire chapter (sixty-three pages) to “Narrated Space” (“Pripovedovani prostor”), which is as much as the chapter on time (fifty-nine pages). Space is of three kinds: the narrator’s, the addressee’s, and that of events. In recent decades space has become a part of thematic criticism (Simonek, Smolej, and theses like “[Location…] in Slovenian literature” (“[Lokacija …] v slovenski književnosti). Juvan treats the issue of space in and of literature in the chapter “Spaces of the Text, Spaces of Context” (“Prostori besedila, prostori konteksta”) in the book Literary Studies in Reconstruction (Literarna veda v rekonstrukciji 2006). A thematic issue of Primerjalna književnost (Comparative literature) entitled Literature and Space (2004), edited by Jola Škulj, is a contribution to international debates on spatial aspects of literature. A series of theses on chronotopes in writers’ works were written due to the impetus of narrative theories. A typical title begins “Space and time in…” (Alenka Glazer, “Prostor in čas v poeziji Janka Glazerja” [Space and time in the poetry of Janko Glazer]).

Literary genres and their spaces

In Slovenska kmečka povest (The Slovenian rural story, 1990), Hladnik analyzed settings according to region and the author’s origin; in Slovenski zgodovinski roman (The Slovenian historical novel, 2009), he analyzed settings by places. The kind of rural story with a marked setting is a regional tale (Regionalizem in slovenska književnost [Regionalism and Slovenian literature] 1991, 1998). Hladnik paid special attention to the image of the town of Kranj in Slovenian narratives. Mountain tales (Hladnik), travelogues, and travel novels (Zupan Sosič, Lah) are more closely defined genres in the spatial sense, as are to a certain extent historical, biographic, and war novels. Classical Slovenian travelogues are: Mencinger’s Moja hoja na Triglav (My hike up Triglav), Levstik’s Popotovanje iz Litije do Čateža (A journey from Litija to Čatež), Prežih’s Od Kotelj do Belih vod (From Kotlje to Bele vode), Erjavec’s Pot iz Ljubljane v Šiško (The travel from Ljubljana to Šiška) and Kako se je Slinarju z Golovca po svetu godilo (How a snail from Golovec faired in the world), and to some extent Izidor Cankar’s S poti (From the road).

Conferences and proceedings about literary spaces

The Seminar on Slovenian Language, Literature, and Culture’s 1998 proceedings on the theme Dežele in mesta (Lands and towns) introduced spatial issues. The series Zborniki Slavističnega društva Slovenije (Collections of the Slavic Society of Slovenia), contained between 2006 and 2010: Vloga meje (The role of borders), Preseganje meje (Crossing borders), Živeti mejo (Living by the border), Slovenski mikrokozmosi – medetnični in medkulturni odnosi (Slovenian microcosms—interethnic and intercultural relations), and Vloge središča: konvergenca regij in kultur (The role of the center: The convergence of regions and cultures).

Collections of data on literary spaces

There are two collections of data on Slovenian narrative prose—the rural story and historical novel—with their settings indexed (Hladnik). There are two literary layers on Geopedia, Slovenian Historical Novelists and The Places of Origin of Slovenian Poets and Prose Writers.


Space has been understood in Slovenian literary studies as a category external to text and therefore it has been a subject of positivist treatments in the context of critical editions of the classics. Narratology and thematic studies brought spatial concerns into literary theory, as did applications of Lotman’s model of semiotic fields on more abstract level. As regards their locations, the most “covered” writers are Prešeren (7), Cankar (5), Pregelj (5), Župančič (4), and following them Jurčič, Kosovel, Jančar, and Kosmač. Spaces that are most frequently mentioned in the titles of scholarly articles are the sea, Bela krajina, then Gorenjska, Kranj, Ljubljana, and mountains; Istra, town, Vienna (Dunaj), and Vrhnika. An empirical approach has at its disposal space in the text (setting), space outside the text (authors’ place of birth and residence), and the ties between them. There are broad spatial definitions (local, provincial, global, European, etc.), narrower general definitions (national space, place, countryside, nature, village, forest, path, mountains, sea, rivers, and water), micro-locations (cave, cliff, clearing, island, bridge), large named spaces (Austria-Hungary, Gorenjska), and smaller ones (Ljubljana, Gorica). Only specific locations (the Mediterranean, Alps, Štajerska, Koroška, Bela Krajina) can be fixed on a map, so that relatively few works and authors could be captured by excerpting.

For excerpting locations it is worthwhile examining anthologies of fiction identified as regional, like books on Maribor, Ljubljana, Kranj, Trst, and Gorica, and the poetic works of authors who are identified by their region: Gradnik (Istra, Goriška Brda), Kosovel (Kras), Jenko (Sorško polje), Gregorčič, (Gorica, Soča), Golar (Sorško polje), Glazer (Pohorje), Prežih (Koroška), Kranjec (Prekmurje), and other regional writers. Information on literary locations and writers’ residences, gathered out of local interests, can also be found in regional collections: from Kranj, Celje, Kamnik, Škofja Loka, and elsewhere. In order to record dynamic geographic conditions it would be necessary to find relations in correspondence, which are documented in Zbrana dela and in the collection Korespondence (Collected works and Collections of correspondence, SAZU), map writers’ or literary characters’ travels, moves of institutions, and so forth.

Categories and structure of data for inputting into GIS

Four categories of literary historical data have been entered into defined GIS input masks and located:

  1. Biographies of writers, critics, essayists, editors, literary historians, cultural patrons, publishers, and other actors in literary culture;
  2. Media and cultural infrastructure: newspapers, literary and cultural reviews, printers and publishing houses, literary societies, libraries, reading rooms, cultural and artistic societies, theaters and national halls;
  3. Spaces represented in literature: settings of Slovenian historical novels;
  4. Memorials and toponyms connected to Slovenian literature.

The masks for inputting data in GIS are flexible enough to be able to add data to them at a later date, but in the context of the project only select categories of data have been systematically completed—those that are most frequently accessible in the sources mentioned above. Data has been collected by students of the Slovene department of the Ljubljana University under the supervision of Urška Perenič.

Structure of PERSONALITIES entries:

  1. Identification number
  2. Surname
  3. Name
  4. Additional names (e.g., pseudonyms)
  5. Major activity: poet, prose writer, dramatist, non-fiction writer, author for children, critic, translator, editor, publisher/printer, literary scholar
  6. Minor activity
  7. Date of birth
  8. Date of death
  9. Place of birth (hospital, mother’s residence at the time of birth)
  10. Place of death
  11. Burial place
  12. Sex
  13. Parents’ social class
  14. Mother’s ethnic affiliation
  15. Father’s ethnic affiliation
  16. Native language
  17. Name of secondary schooling
  18. Place of secondary schooling
  19. Name of higher/university education
  20. Discipline(s) studied
  21. Place of higher/university education
  22. Kind of education attained
  23. Occupations(s)
  24. Places of work (by years)
  25. Social status after highest education
  26. Political positions or activity
  27. Personal connections in literature
  28. Personal connections in other areas
  29. Languages of texts published
  30. Year of the first published book
  31. Place of the first published book
  32. Place of residence at the time of the first book publication
  33. Year of first appearance in a serial publication
  34. Place of first appearance in a serial publication
  35. Place of residence at the time of the first publication in a paeriodical
  36. Year of last book publication (during lifetime)
  37. Place of last book publication (during lifetime)
  38. Place of residence at the time of the last book publication
  39. Place of publication of the majority of author’s works
  40. Journals in which the author was publishing
  41. Publishing houses in which the author was publishing
  42. Memorials connected with this person
  43. Sources

Structure of inputting PERIODICALS (newspapers, journals, book collections, almanacs):

  1. Identification number
  2. Title
  3. Subtitle, additional or changed titles
  4. Type of publication: newspaper / newspaper not in Slovenian / émigré newspaper / journal / almanac / book series
  5. Language(s)
  6. Dominant thematic: literary / cultural and artistic / professional and scholarly / informative / educational and(or) entertaining / other
  7. Place of publication
  8. First year of publication
  9. Last year of publication
  10. Prevailing frequency: daily / weekly / monthly /annual / other
  11. Editor-in-chief
  12. Editors
  13. Publisher
  14. Circulation
  15. Number of volumes (only for almanacs and book series)
  16. Type of readership
  17. Intended space: local / regional / national / international / émigré
  18. Sources

Structure of inputting for INSTITUTIONS (publishing houses, printers, reading societies, theaters, national halls):

  1. Identification number
  2. Name/title
  3. Other names
  4. Type of the institution: printers and publishers / reading societies / theaters / national halls
  5. Locations(s)
  6. The most permanent location
  7. Date of founding
  8. Date of closing
  9. Connections with other institutions
  10. Sources

Structure of inputting LITERARY SPACES (Slovenian historical novel):

  1. Identification number
  2. Surname and name of text’s author
  3. Title of the text
  4. Year manuscript was completed
  5. Year of publication
  6. Place of publication
  7. Genre
  8. Geographic names in Slovenia in the text (arranged by frequency)
  9. Geographic references (Slovenian) of fictional settings
  10. Predominant spaces depicted
  11. Geographic names outside of Slovenia

Structure of inputting MEMORIALS (statues, toponymy, memorials):

  1. Identification number
  2. Name and surname of the dedicatee
  3. Name/title of the memorial
  4. Type of the monument: open air statue / open air bust / statue of a literary character / memorial (house, room, plate, etc.) / name of institution / name of location
  5. Year of unveiling
  6. Location
  7. Text on the monument
  8. Initiators
  9. Authors of the memorial
  10. Sources

In sum, 323 personalities, 100 periodicals, 58 reading societies, 40 printers and publishers, 26 theaters and national halls, 48 historical novels and 1676 memorials have been analyzed and mapped. All databases were united into a uniform relational database, organized according to clear spatial identifiers. A powerful interface enabling on-line searching, analyzing, and interactive mapping of data has been developed.

Data analysis and creating thematic maps with GIS

Preparing and designing thematic maps is a challenging, time consuming, and complicated set of procedures that must aim to give users a complete picture of the breadth of specific phenomena in space, their interdependence, and connections. First, themes are identified and suitable sources, then the maps’ mathematical components are determined. In this project that means that the first step is to geo-reference or position the attributive data from input masks. Most of the data will have to be correlated with data in the form of location points (e.g., by the coordinates of places in which the authors of literary works were born) or by polygon figure location information (e.g., the geographic coordinates of the borders of a spatial setting’s extent in a given historical novel).

Generalizations are unavoidable in graphic representations with varying content. Only a small number of phenomena can be simultaneously shown on a map, and not all of them that in actuality interact in one space. Therefore a generalization means changing the dimensions of individual elements and on attaining new, condensed visualizations of the geographic condition of a land (Podpečan 1960). This demands solid knowledge of ways of generalizing and the theory of minimal dimensions, well thought out systematization of data, and review of map types and measures. The aim of generalization is not only to reduce the number of cartographic symbols, but also to simplify the contours of cartographic symbols and to highlight the most important objects.

The arrangement of data in space and selection of an appropriate level of generalization is usually followed by selection of fitting cartographic symbols and their shapes, which for thematic maps is substantially more demanding than for general geographic maps. By using different shapes, colors, patterns, or directions of cartographic symbols, we usually show those features of elements (qualities) that can be shown in graphic form. If in addition to fitting features of phenomena we wish to show their size or frequency of appearance (quantity) with numeric values, we change the size of the cartographic symbol points, their colors, and gradations of brightness. We can also focus on the temporal coordinate of the appearance or development of individual phenomena or forms. Thus we distinguish static illustrations, which define conditions at a certain moment, from dynamic illustrations, in which changes in a certain period of time are made visible.

Digital mapping facilitates modes of map expression somewhat more complex in form because work by hand is eliminated. Nonetheless, it is also necessary in digital mapmaking to avoid the overload of a large number of cartographic symbols; otherwise comprehensibility will be significantly reduced.

The use and design of graphs also deserves special attention. Quantitative data can, of course, be more exactly recorded in figures, yet visual representation of data in graphs is easier to apprehend because graphs more prominently convey the features, dependencies, and integrity of phenomena (Bertin 1981: 11). Graphs are graphic means of expression used in cartography uniquely for thematic maps. They have many advantages for mapping literary content. They are intended to show changes in phenomena in a given time period, the mutual relations of two or more kinds of numeric values, and the roles of individual objects in a group of objects of the same kind. Graphs possess numeric values, especially statistical data, shown in a special coordinate system that is independent of the map’s system of coordinates.

Captions are also a component of any map. Their central function in thematic maps is to increase the map’s informational value, but they must not distract the user’s attention from the theme. Captions that belong to individual illustrations of objects are most often map titles, although they can include any number of other textual explanations as well. The placement and size of captions on a map to a great extent depends on the distribution of other elements of cartographic content and map measures.

Thematic maps with commentaries and analyses together are available on the website of the ZRC SAZU. They will also be used outside the scholarly framework of the project. The maps will benefit the teaching of literature in schools and the planning of academic excursions; preparation of tourist guides and planning tour routes; and policymaking for preservation of the Slovenian cultural heritage.

Interpreting mapped data and concluding reflection

In addition to spatial visualization of information, a significant advantage of GIS is also the possibility of spatio-statistical analyses, which will form the basis for seeking relevant correlations between literary historical data and the quantitative data of social geography (e.g., demographic and economic). The project participants have written a substantial number of articles that interpret the results of the spatial analyses from the point of view of literary criticism and geography.

Having carried out the project, the team is now able to provide a reliable estimation of the perspectives of GIS humanities and further development of literary geography and spatial literary research in Slovenia. The collected data and their analysis and interpretation can be an ongoing basis for possibly continuing and intensifying the study, as well as for including it in international cooperative research on the mapping of other European cultures.

Case studies and a “Literary Atlas of Ljubljana”

On the basis of case studies on the mutual influences of geographic space and literary imagination (relating to kind of area, land, literary historical period, centers and peripheries, urban and rural environments) it is possible to reach conclusions about how literary texts of different kinds, periods, and regional origin represented the Slovenian space and its natural and political boundaries, how they conceptually and ethnically modeled it, what meanings (especially national) they attributed to it, and how they thus influenced readers’ consciousness, their ethnic and regional affiliations, and their experiences of the space they lived in. The Literary Atlas of Ljubljana is made up of two parts. In the first, biographical part, information on the lives of the most notable creative writers with a Ljubljana connection are be recorded: residences, schools, cultural institutions, sites of social meetings, and cemeteries and monuments dedicated to them. The atlas will only include deceased writers who are considered the most notable in literary history. The second, geographical part of the atlas contains maps that the user can practically link to the information in the first part, and thus see the spaces in contemporary Ljubljana.

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