This essay traces connections between the mapping of Africa and the character of Oroonoko in Aphra Behn’s 1688 novella. Cartography never encompassed the physical environment without reference to the human body, a connection reinforced visually in the seventeenth century by portraits of local figures placed in the margins of maps. The essay argues that this juxtaposition of land and people affected not only the understanding of human diversity but also the creation of a literary character such as Oroonoko, whose fictional identity is owed to representational conventions developed in the mapmaking workshops of early modern Europe.

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