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Time, Space, and the Itinerary

Mapping the Siege of Jerusalem

Alyssa McLeod, Author
Siege of Jerusalem, page 1 of 11
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How many maps, in the descriptive or geographical sense, might be needed to deal exhaustively with a given space, to code and decode all its meanings and contents? It is doubtful whether a finite number can be given in answer to this sort of question….The idea that a small number of maps or even a single (and singular) map might be sufficient can only apply in a specialized area of study whose own self-affirmation depends on isolation from its context.
          — Henri Lefebvre, The Production of Space

What then is time? Provided that no one asks me, I know.
          — St. Augustine, Confessions

Expansive, unpredictable, and infinitely variable, time and space are problematic concepts in medieval poetry. They simultaneously structure the internal narrative time of the poem and impact the embodied "reading time" of the reader, constantly negotiating and renegotiating the relationship between text and society, form and content. This multimodal essay, written with the interdisciplinary journey Digital Medievalist in mind, examines recent developments in digital humanities work on geotemporal modelling in relation to a specific poem, the late fourteenth-century Siege of Jerusalem, a Middle English alliterative account of the Roman destruction of the city of Jerusalem in approximately 70 CE. Taking into consideration Henri Lefebvre's point in The Production of Space that space is produced, lived, and perceived through the body (162), I conclude that current digital models of geotemporality, including Google Maps and recent work on speculative timelines, fail to adequately represent medieval poetry. This is not only because of the models themselves, but because many current readers fail to take into account the distinction between a map and an itinerary; that is, a static graphical display of space versus a textual or graphical narrative in which space unfolds over a period of time. The ideal digital model for the Siege of Jerusalem, I conclude, is a non-cartographic yet highly spatialized graphical representation of the poem's timeline, a paradigm I borrow from thirteenth-century mapmaker Matthew Paris's maplike itineraries:

This project joins several other recent efforts to present the poem in reader-friendly form, including a 2004 TEAMS edition, also available online, and an upcoming modern English translation with Broadview Press by Dr. Adrienne Williams Boyarin of UVic’s English Department. This paper first examines the nature of time and space in medieval poetry, then moves into a detailed analysis of recent trends in geotemporal modelling in the digital humanities, theorizing the appearance of a medieval history-informed digital model of the Siege of Jerusalem.
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