Mapping Movement: Reimagining Cartography in The Selected Works of T.S. Spivet

In: Perspectives on Mobility

This paper examines concepts of mapping in cultural discourse, investigating its gradual accumulation of meanings beyond the special reference to a geographical technology. Mapping has seen a brilliant career in the course of which it has become severed from enlightenment logic and territorial, colonial politics and come to stand for a spatial representation of things with blurred boundaries and instable entities constantly on the move. In order to assess the benefits and disadvantages of this reconceptualisation, the paper analyses the popular novel The Selected Works of T.S. Spivet, in which mapping is redefined as an unofficial, even subversive notational practice at odds with scientific positivism. Since the novel’s figurations of space and mobility are in many ways paradigmatic of cultural discourse, it provides an example of the ambiguous characteristics associated with the concept. Tracing mobility and movement in visual, diagrammatic and verbal representations allows for the foregrounding of embodied spatial experience, thus supplementing traditional conceptualisations with an experiential, embodied dimension. By applying the concept of mapping to a deliberately subjective agency, however, the temporal conditions of change can also be glossed over and disguised.