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Time, Space, and the Itinerary

Mapping the Siege of Jerusalem

Alyssa McLeod, Author

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Siege of Jerusalem


Although they are problematic constructs in all literature, narrative time and space are particularly so in the Siege of Jerusalem, a fourteenth-century alliterative poem about the Roman destruction of the city of Jerusalem in the first century. The narrative of the Siege of Jerusalem moves back and forth between Christ’s crucifixion and the first-century Roman attack on Jerusalem without any indication of temporal difference. Cities that in actuality lie thousands of miles apart are in the poem within a day’s sail away: after a storm blows his Rome-bound ship off course, for instance, a messenger travels from Syria to France (196). In The Sacred and the Profane, Mircea Eliade labels these phenomena of temporal and spatial simultaneity as instances of sacred time and sacred space, marks of a religious culture’s heterogeneous, relative understanding of spatiotemporality (20).

Surveying recent digital trends in geotemporal modelling, including Google Maps and research on the speculative timeline at the University of Alberta, this multimodal essay theorizes the development of a digital model that will express and in effect "translate" the medieval itinerary (a temporal, processional understanding of space) into graphical terms that twenty-first-century readers of medieval poetry can understand. Rather than a cartographic representation of narrative action, a spatialized understanding of time is the best approximation of the internal spatiotemporal workings of medieval narrative. This essay points to the need for a digital means of displaying the itinerary, a model for which it outlines in relation to the Timeline widget developed by the Simile Project at MIT.
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