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Eighteenth-Century Geography and Representations of Space

in English Fiction and Poetry

Jean-Paul Forster

In this study, the author shows that, under the influence of the popular geography of the eighteenth century, an increasing number of literary works began to make use of actual topographical data. Two of these works even make use of maps. He demonstrates that the kinship between geographical and literary representations of topography went further: they underwent parallel developments. His analyses of the different types of geographical representations of space that appeared in the course of the century allow him to explore the worldviews they embody, the new and often conflicting attitudes to space that they reveal, and the connections these representations have with the evolution of the contemporary notions of motion and mobility.
The author underlines the role these topographical representations played in the nascent realism of the novel and the new life they breathed into poetry. His study is also a contribution to the discussion of the important changes that occurred in the way people thought about and lived space, many of which announce our time.