keynote lecture will be delivered by Stefan Ekman (University of Gothenburg), a renowned expert in imaginary & fantasy maps, best known for the book Here be dragons. Exploring Fantasy Maps and Settings―the first in-depth study in literary topography of fantasy novels.
JANUARY 21ST 2016, 16:00-18:00
Beyond the Margins of the Map
What can a fictional map tell us about the world that lurks beyond its borders? Fictional maps can be said to create the world that they portray rather than offer a representation of it. Even when textual descriptions are also available, the seas, mountains, and cities of imaginary worlds owe much of their geographic existence to the fact that they are elements in a cartographic space. But fictional maps rarely portray the totality of the world; they are for various reasons focused on particular locations, countries, or continents, leaving a greater or smaller part of the fictional world off the map. At the same time, the maps can reflect that greater world of which they portray only a part.
In my presentation, I will look at the margins of maps from (mainly) fantasy literature and what they reveal to us about the fictive world on the map and off it. My point of departure will be the idea that the map encodes information about what I call world architecture, the functional, structural, and aesthetic features that are used to provide spatial orientation and historical and cultural identity to the place mapped. The world architecture that can be identified in fictional maps reflects the architecture of their entire worlds, and critical examination of it can lead to insights into even that which is not mapped. Margins can be used to construct the world outside the map’s borders as unknown, known, or even familiar and I will use fantasy maps to illustrate and discuss some of the critical tools we can use to learn about the world beyond the margins.
Stefan Ekman received his PhD from Lund University, Sweden, in 2010, and a revised version of his thesis was published as Here Be Dragons: Exploring Fantasy Maps and Settings (Wesleyan UP, 2013). He is a former head of the fantasy literature division of the International Association for the Fantastic in the Arts, and has lectured on fantasy, science fiction, and role-playing games for a variety of audiences all over Sweden, including public libraries, schools, and universities. He is currently Research Coordinator at the Swedish National Data Service and teaches fantasy at the Department of Languages and Literatures at the University of Gothenburg.