A Digital and Naturalistic Landscape of Thomas Hardy's Wessex: Tess of the D'Urbervilles

About the Project

The Map

This digital humanities project exhibits a digital story map of Wessex, the fictional setting in the novels and poems of nineteenth century British author and poet, Thomas Hardy.  The places in Hardy’s fictional Wessex are based on real locations in the counties of Dorset, Wiltshire, Someset, Devon, and Hampshire in the south and southwestern region of England.  Told from the perspective of one of Hardy's most famous novels, Tess of the d'Urbervilles, the map plots the narrative's locations in the order in which they first appear in the novel. Considered a masterpiece and one of the best examples of nineteenth century naturalistic fiction, this map explores the natural world Hardy captures in Tess of the d’Urbervilles.  More than a mere setting, the map allows readers and scholars to investigate Wessex via the novel's locations annotated with literary passages from Tess of the d'Urbervilles, highlighting Hardy's prevalent themes of naturalism, sexuality, religion, evolution, and predeterminism.  

As noted by many critics, the landscape of Wessex serves as a central element in Tess of the d'Urbervilles and provides both spatial and symbolic insight into the phases of Tess's life.  Due to the integral role the landscape of Wessex plays in the novel, creating a digital map of Wessex from the perspective of Tess's story is highly ideal.  The locations in Hardy's illustrated map can be compared with today's corresponding real locations in England.  Although some of the real locations of the places in the novel are debatable, I have mapped their closest real locations described in the novel.  As the study of geospatial humanities continues to grow and explores the intersection of space and literary scholarship, this digital humanities project hopes to offer new literary insights into the scholarly teachings of Hardy’s fictional world, life and writings. 

How did I create the Map?

After reviewing various GIS tools with IU Bloomington's GIS Librarian, Theresa Quill, I used NYPL's open source mapping tool, Map Warper, to align and geo-rectify a digitized illustrated map of Thomas Hardy's Wessex in correspondence to its real locations in the southern region of England.  In ArcGIS Online, I then layered the geo-rectified version of Thomas Hardy's illustrated map of Wessex on top of a basemap of the southern region of England. After making a copy of just the basemap of the southern region of England, I then placed both maps side by side in ArcGIS's Esri Story Map Swiper.  If you swipe through both map versions available, Hardy's illustrated map of Wessex can now be compared and viewed next to a GIS basemap of the southern region of England. Upon clicking on each location number in the story map swiper, you will see the fictional name of the location in Hardy's Wessex along with its real location's name with a description of the area in the novel.  By selecting each numbered location tab at the top of the story map, you may also read through literary passages from the novel's assigned location on the map.

Future Project Goals

Future goals of this project include building upon the digital story map I have already created by incorporating Hardy's other Wessex novels (e.g. The Return of the NativeFar from the Madding CrowdJude the Obscure, etc.).  I also plan to perform textual analysis of concatenated words in connection to the towns and places in Hardy’s novels.

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