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Motivation

It all starts with the supposedly simple questions:

Where is literature set and why there?

Europe offers an abundant wealth of fictionalised landscapes and cities. The nascent research area of literary geography/literary cartography aims at visibly rendering such complex overlays of real and fictional geographies. At the crossroads of literary theory and cartographic visualisations new methods have to be developed: How to adequately can fictional settings be mapped by means of newly designed, tailor-made symbology? And what new insights can be gained from such an approach? For more than a hundred years literary criticism has been struggling with the question of how best to depict literary spaces on maps in an adequate and objectively accurate manner. Starting point is the observation, that each literary plot is located somewhere, along a scale of localisations that range from the realistically rendered, highly recognisable to the completely imaginary. Yet a concise theory and convincing instruments to deal with and comment on the specific geography of literature have been lacking until now. The solutions presented so far have to be considered only as partially satisfactory and the list of unsolved problems is long. It is against this background that an interactive prototype of a »Literary Atlas of Europe« is currently under development at the Institute of Cartography, ETH Zurich.