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Studying Urban Space and Literary Representations Using GIS: Lisbon, Portugal, 1852-2009

  • Daniel Alves and Ana Isabel Queiroz

This article proposes a methodology to address the urban evolutionary process, demonstrating how it is reflected in literature. It focuses on “literary space,” presented as a territory defined by the period setting or as evoked by the characters, which can be georeferenced and drawn on a map. It identifies the different locations of literary space in relation to urban development and the economic, political, and social context of the city. We suggest a new approach for mapping a relatively comprehensive body of literature by combining literary criticism, urban history, and geographic information systems (GIS). The home-range concept, used in animal ecology, has been adapted to reveal the size and location of literary space. This interdisciplinary methodology is applied in a case study to nineteenth- and twentieth-century novels involving the city of Lisbon. The developing concepts of cumulative literary space and common literary space introduce size calculations in addition to location and structure, previously developed by other researchers. Sequential and overlapping analyses of literary space throughout time have the advantage of presenting comparable and repeatable results for other researchers using a different body of literary works or studying another city. Results show how city changes shaped perceptions of the urban space as it was lived and experienced. A small core area, correspondent to a part of the city center, persists as literary space in all the novels analyzed. Furthermore, the literary space does not match the urban evolution. There is a time lag for embedding new urbanized areas in the imagined literary scenario.

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