MAA 2016 Toponymic Strata in a Large Corpus of Medieval French

David Joseph Wrisley
“Place in Corpora” panel
Medieval Academy of America
Boston, 26 February 2016

Computational models are “however finely perfected, they are temporary states in a process of coming to know, rather than fixed structures of knowledge.” (McCarty, 26)

A view from down under










Visualization 1:  Peripleo.  A geographic view of many different digital objects related to the places of Herodotus.  Click here to explore the same query live.

Herodotus at Peripleo



Visualization 2: The places of Joinville’s Vie de saint Louis, data by @DJWrisley

places of Joinville


Visualization 3: Top 50 Places names in the medieval French corpus.

Visualization 4: The literary geographies of the full corpus of Christine de Pizan.  Open geodata set by myself (about 1000 place names) for download.



Visualization 5: Full dataset with a Time Slider (almost 10000 place names, 60% geocoded). 

VMP time slider




Visualization 6: A Faceted Browser for Placenames in Medieval (French) Literature (with Stefan Jaenicke, DH 2013) (almost 3000 place names).

Screenshot 2016-02-21 15.30.46


Visualization 7: Medieval French corpus place names layover with high population areas c 1300. (base map: Richard Hoffmann)

Visualization 8: Medieval French corpus place names layover with agricultural systems c. 1300. (base map: Richard Hoffmann)

Visualization 9: Comparative Cross-Language Literary Geographies of Marian poetry: Gautier de Coincy, Gonzalo de Berceo, Alfonso el Sabio (Old French, Castilian, Galician) (608 points) (map data by myself)

Visualization 10: Comparative Arabic-French late Medieval Historiography (al-Nuwairi Al-Iskandarani vs. Guillaume de Machaut) (map data by myself, accessible color palette)



Non-Embedded Works Mentioned:

“Australia on top down under!” Nucolorvue Productions PTY Ltd.

Center for Medieval Studies / Fordham University (2016). Exploring Place in the French of Italy.

Doueihi, M. (2011). Pour un humanisme numérique. Paris: Seuil.

Elliot, T. and S. Gillies (2009). “Digital Geography and Classics“ DHQ 3.1

Hoffmann, R. (2014).  An Environmental History of Medieval Europe. Cambridge: CUP.

Jessop, M. (2008). “The Inhibition of Geographic Information in Digital Humanities Scholarship” LLC 23.1: 39-50.

Mostern, R. et al (2016, forthcoming) Placing Names: Enriching and Integrating Gazetteers. Bloomington: Indiana UP.

Presner, T. and D. Shepard (2016). Mapping the Geospatial Turn” The New Companion to Digital Humanities. Malden, MA/Oxford: Wiley Blackwell.

Simon, R. et al. (2016).  “Peripleo: a Tool for Exploring Heterogeneous Data through the Dimensions of Space and Time”  Code4Lib 31.

Stoa Consortium (2016). Pleiades.

Suard, F. (2011). Guide de la chanson de geste et sa postérité littéraire. Paris: Champion.

Turnator, E. (2015). Summary of the Proceedings of the Linking the Middle Ages“ Workshop.

Wrisley, D. (2016). Visualizing Medieval Places.

Digital Humanities in the Contact Zone: Developing Transcultural Models for Research in the Humanities

Digital Humanities in the Contact Zone: Developing Transcultural Models for Research in the Humanities

David Joseph Wrisley
American University of Beirut
8 February 2016



-Have the Digital Humanities In Fact Always Been So Monolingual?
-Not Just a Pretty Picture: Alignments, Networks, Maps Exploring Texts or Data Derived from Texts
-Collective Multilingual Contemporary Research, or What Are the Digital Humanities And What Could They Be Doing in Modern Language Departments?


Key Terms from My Title:

Digital Humanities, Contact Zone, Transcultural, Model


PART ONE:  Have the Digital Humanities In Fact Always Been So Monolingual?

Roberto Busa – Latin, Hebrew, Aramaic, and Nabatean

ARTFL project
Biblioteca Cervantes
al-Maktaba al-Shamila

The Sharing Ancient Wisdoms Project (King’s College/Vienna) – Arabic, Greek, Spanish, Latin
Fenno-Ugrica digitization (National Library of Finland Project of Kindred Languages) – in the Ingrian, Veps, Mari, Mordvin languages
HumanitéDigitMaghreb – French, Arabic, Maghrebi Arabics, Berber
Perseus Project – Greek, Latin, Arabic (Tufts/Leipzig)
Open Arabic Project (Leipzig)


PART TWO:  Not Just a Pretty Picture: Alignments, Networks, Maps Exploring Texts or Data Derived from Texts

2a.  The Transmission of an Arabic wisdom text, the Mukhtar al-Hikam in medieval Europe (From Arabic to English, via Spanish, Latin and French) – alignment using LF Aligner (screen grab)

Aristotle alignment

2b.  Reinventing “alignment” : visualizing variant textual traditions (with S. Jänicke, Leipzig). Interactive visualization here.

Aligning the Song of Roland





2c  Stylometric analysis of the same text in three corpora in parallel using R (screen grab)

Mukhtar al Hikam trilingual networks






Left: 50+ medieval Iberian texts.  Interactive network here.
Middle: 125+ medieval Latin texts.  Interactive network here.
Right: 100+ late medieval French texts.  Interactive network here.


2d. Map visualizations

Colleges and Universities in Florida (map data: Hisham al-Khatib)

Querying and comparing (data combined with American Community Survey from Florida Geographic Data Library) – proximity of colleges/universities to 50%+ Hispanic communities with close up on Miami at right (screen grabs from QGIS)
more than 50 percent hisp miami closeup more than 50 percent












2e.  Literary Geographies within a Large Authorial Corpus: Christine de Pizan (1000+ points) (map data by myself)


2f. Comparative Cross-Language Literary Geographies of Marian poetry: Gautier de Coincy, Gonzalo de Berceo, Alfonso el Sabio (Old French, Castilian, Galician) (608 points) (map data by myself)

Benedictine Monasteries and Marian poetry (map data layer: Hisham al-Khatib)

2g. Comparative Arabic-French late Medieval Historiography (al-Nuwairi Al-Iskandarani vs. Guillaume de Machaut) (map data by myself, accessible color palette)

2h.  Exploring Place in the French of Italy (with MA students from Fordham Center for Medieval Studies) – screen grabs from Omeka

EPFOI map gallery



Project Site with text-specific maps, composite maps, micro essays by graduate students and a technical essay.


2i. Medieval French Literature and Systems Theory (map: California History and Social Science Project)

PART THREE Collective Multilingual Contemporary Research, or What Are the Digital Humanities And What Could They Be Doing in Modern Language Departments?

3a Linguistic Landscapes of Beirut (Arabic, English, French, Armenian…) with mobile data collection (1000+ points) (map data by myself and ENGL 229 students)

Bassam G Happa BookstoreDavid W Bon vita


For more maps here.


3b. Beirut Publishes / و بيروت تطبع   :  Thick Maps of a Century of Lebanese Publishing

For more maps here.


Non-embedded Works Cited

Abu Lughod, J. Before European Hegemony: The World System AD 1250-1350 (OUP: 1989).

Al-Nuwairi al-Iskandarani, Mukhtar al-Hikam wa Mahasin al-Kalim, Ed. A. Badawi  (Instituto Egipcio de Estudios Islámicos: 1958).

Biber, D.  “Corpus linguistics and the study of literature: Back to the future?” Scientific Study of Literature 1(2011):15–23.

Burdick, A. D_H (MIT Press, 2014).

Collet, O. Glossaire et Index critiques des oeuvres d’attribution certaine de Gautier de Coinci. (Droz, 2000).

Drucker, J. “Performative Materiality and Theoretical Approaches to Interface Design” DHQ 7.1(2013).

Guillaume de Machaut. La Prise d’Alixandre. Ed. B. Palmer (Routledge, 2002).

Gonzalo de Berceo. Obras completas. Ed. B. Dutton (Tamesis, 1967-81).

Kinoshita, S. “Worlding Medieval French,” French Global (Columbia UP, 2010).

McCarty, W.  Humanities Computing (Palgrave, 2003).

Mermier, F.  Le livre et la ville: Beyrouth et l’édition arabe (Actes Sud, 2005).

The Princeton Charrette Project.  Web.

Romanov, R.  “Al-Thurayyā Gazetteer: An Islamic Supplement to Pleiades.” Blog. 17 March 2014.

Shohamy, E.  Linguistic Landscape in the City (Multilingual Matters, 2010)

Walter, S. “Tips to Create a Contrasted and Accessible Color Palette.” Blog. 13 April 2014.

Wrisley, D.J. The Literary Geographies of Christine de Pizan (geo-data). 2015. Zenodo. DOI

Beirut publishes… / وبيروت تطبع

Beirut publishes… / وبيروت تطبع : Digital Spatio-Temporal Narratives of the Lebanese Publishing Industry (1920-present)

David Joseph Wrisley
American University of Beirut
Abstract : Books in Motion Conference (Beirut, May 2016)

Initial project site:

As the old adage goes, “Cairo writes, Beirut publishes, Baghdad reads.” This paper grows out of a project-based research spatial humanities seminar in the Department of English at the American University of Beirut entitled “Literature and Mapping” (ENGL 292/306V, Spring 2016) that explores spatio-temporality of publishing culture in Beirut over the last century. Scholars familiar with the work of Moretti will recognize the come-back of the map to literary studies, particularly as an organizing technology for thinking about data-driven studies of literary production. This project takes some of its inspiration from a recent attempt to map publishing and book selling in Cairo, but with a key difference: we aim not only to localize contemporary commercial book culture, but also to add historical and sociological depth for the case of Beirut. We know publishing institutions did not stay in the same locations over the course of time (Mermier), and scholars have documented the rise of certain sectors and kinds of book publishing in and around the city (Rosiny).

Planned data sources for this project include archival materials held in special collections at Jafet Library, IFPO and the Bibliothèque Orientale, extracted records from electronic library catalogs (Library of Congress, New York Public Library, Bibliothèque nationale de France), interviews with local publishers and booksellers as well as from mobile application data collection. From the LOC I have already acquired (scraped) the publication information for about 10000 books published in Beirut over the century. Other sources will no doubt emerge as the research continues.

One of the traditional problems in history and sociology is capturing simultaneously the spatial and the temporal complexity of a research problem, especially within traditional academic prose narrative. Digital mapping techniques provide an invaluable frame for spatio-temporal depth, but not without significant challenges. Inspired by theoreticians and practitioners in a branch of the digital humanities known as the spatial or GeoHumanities, we will create a set of interactive “thick” or “deep” maps that allow for a variety of factors in the data about Beirut publishing to be visualized. For example, we will explore the potential effects of war, gentrification and delocalization of urban cultural space on the sector. Whereas traditional methods of digital mapping rely upon spatial precision and computational analysis, the techniques need to be adjusted for the kind of data collection and representation we expect to carry out. Much of what we will acquire is rough and uncertain–in both space and time–with approximate dates of activity and only a building name or a post-office box for an address. We will discuss in particular how maps do not simply mirror the world, but tell multiple narratives about lived, built space. Maps are “unstable, fragile and temporary,” they are a “conversation and not a statement” (McLucas).

Unlike top-down models for mapping cities that promote state-centered views of culture or politics, bottom-up “neogeography” admits pluralism and democratic, even idiosyncractic or messy, access to the analytic space of the map (Warf). In one semester we will be able to collect considerable data, but humanities mapping never aims at a totality of the archive, but rather visualizes what we know as but one step in the process of discovering what we do not know (Bodenhamer). Mapping is never a “one-time thing” (Presner et al.). It is an iterative process. As such, the paper proposed for the Books in Motion conference, will be prose narrative delivered in a traditional panel time slot, but will be accompanied by map-based narrative that will illustrate some of the semester’s findings. Initial evidence points to a shift of printing and consumption of books away from the early 20th century souqs and reading clubs located in proximity to the various national embassies towards two cultural, language-divergent poles that developed in the 1920s around the “globalized” Catholic and American university presses, a familiar bifurcation as described by cultural historians (Kassir). Other initial findings point to mid-century and post-war clustering of publishers in new areas–Ain al-Tineh, Ghoberieh/Haret Hreik and Sin al-Fil. We would like to analyze these spatial migrations of the publishing sector in relation to the existence and development of other (confessionally-inflected) cultural institutions. The very basic map of aggregate data (as of yet temporally undistinguished) can be found at the project site.

Recognizing that the Lebanese book sector was deeply involved in not only publishing, but also distribution, printing and translation in and out of Arabic, French and English, the full story of connectivity of this sector is not to be found in Lebanon alone. As it is a new topic, and for the purposes of the initial investigation, the scale of the spatial narrative generated in the Spring semester will be the general metropolitan area of Beirut. This being said, ancillary data will no doubt be collected linking the publishing to other parts of the Arab world, Europe and North America. This data, if robust, may be used to analyze networks of publishers connected to Beirut, adding another dimension to the “mobility of books.”

Keywords: book publishing, book distribution, digital humanities, spatial humanities, spatio-temporal narratives, thick/deep mapping, sociology of literature

Initial project site:

Works Cited

Bodenhamer, D.J. “Narrating Space and Place,” Deep Maps and Spatial Narratives (2015).

“Cairo Bookstop” [accessed 1.12.15].

Kassir, S. Histoire de Beyrouth (2003).

McLucas, C. “Deep Mapping,” [accessed 1.12.15].

Mermier, F. Le Livre et la ville: Beyrouth et l’édition arabe (2005).

Moretti, F. Atlas of the European Novel 1800-1900 (1999).

Presner, T. et al, Hypercities: Thick Mapping and the Digital Humanities (2014).

Rosiny, S. Shia’s Publishing in Lebanon: with special reference to Islamic and Islamicist publications (1999).

Warf, B. “Deep Mapping and Neogeography,” Deep Maps and Spatial Narratives (2015).

How did you make that (digital) literary geography?

How did you make that (digital) literary geography?
American University of Beirut
24 November 2015


At the invitation by IT academic services and the Center for Teaching and Learning at AUB, this short presentation will give an overview of some digital approaches to location-based literary phenomena (sociology of literature, modeling narrative, digital storytelling, map-text relationships, etc).

Outline of the presentation:

1  Introduction

Tomorrow’s Teaching and Learning (circulated by CTL, 19 Nov) – higher order thinking skills, spatial literacies, interdisciplinary co-learning, making critical arguments in a variety of formats, open geographic data, modeling data
Moretti’s Atlas of European Novel vs. national literary geographies (Ferre, Bartholomew, de Oliviera)
Miriam Posner’s blog How did they make that?
DHCommons Journal “How Did They Make That?” issue 1
GeoHumanities gallery Humanities GIS
starter bibliography
related workshop– Cairo October 2015 (with hands on component, not all literary)

pieces of a spatial project: locations, geographic coordinates, other relevant metadata, projection system, database, base maps, APIs

2  Advanced non-literary examples (born-digital data)

Obesity map @kyle_e_walker
What: visualization of open data about obesity in the US
How: fetching data on obesity from CDC, programming language R, processing data, pushing automatically to cloud web mapping (CartoDB), “abstract” base map

Wimbledon 2014
What: A map of tweets during Wimbledon final match
How: twitter mining, cloud hosting and visualization using torque (CartoDB)

2  (Mostly hand curated, non-born digital data) Examples from literature and culture

Pre-modern Spanish literature @RojasCastroA
What: A map of places mentioned in Spanish Golden Age works by Gongora.
How:  manual extraction and geoparsing,cloud hosting of data, use of color, unlabelled political map, info box containing snippets of text,web mapping (CartoDB), open data

Roman de la violette (vers vs prose) @DJWrisley
What:  mentions of places in a 13th c verse text and its 15th prose rewriting
How: manual extraction and geoparsing,cloud hosting of data, contrasting color and shape, unlabeled satellite view, web mapping (Google Maps), open data

French epic space-time choropleth vs torque @DJWrisley
What: mentions of places in a corpus of medieval French epic poems by date of composition
How: manual extraction and geoparsing, cloud hosting of data, unlabelled political map, web mapping and animation (CartoDB), open data

Exploring Place in the French of Italy @MVSTFordham @DJWrisley
What: exhibit built around mention of places in a corpus of medieval French texts composed in Italy, individual maps, weighted by place, composite map and essays
How: semi-manual extraction, geoparsing and counting, cloud hosting of data, embedded maps in Omeka (from CartoDB), open data

Dislocating Ulysses
What: locating objects from an exhibit about Ulysses within their geospatial context and historical context within Dublin
How: manual geoparsing, hosted in Google Earth (here viewed as video capture)

Slave Revolt in Jamaica, 1760
What: animated thematic map of Jamaica slave insurrection
How: manual extraction and geoparsing?, listed archival sources, “locational database”, historical base map, animation, timeline, Leaflet

Grub Street Project
What: “a digital edition of eighteenth-century London”, “both a real place and an abstract idea”
How: digital edition in TEI linked to map, manual extraction and geoparsing, web mapping, custom interface

Life of Maya Angelou
What: digital storytelling of places important across time for the life of Maya Angelou
How: manual extraction and geoparsing, Odyssey.js, cloud hosting of data, Markdown

Bruce Chatwin’s Utz vs Vichy
What: contrast of two novels by Chatwin and different narratological modes
How: ArcGIS?, fuzzy spaces as dispersion, color, not web mapping (static images)

Interactive Ibn Jubayr
What: a set of interactive exhibits from a class on Ibn Jubayr
How: manual extraction and geoparsing, Omeka, Neatline

Atlantic Networks Project
What: visualizations of data from the “logbooks of the merchant vessels that participated in an Atlantic commodity network”
How: manual extraction of data, ArcGIS, web mapping (ArcGIS), semi-open data

Mapping the Lakes: A Literary GIS
What: an exploration of the places mentioned in Gray’s and Coleridge’s accounts of the Lake District, the emotions expressed in them
How: semi-manual extraction of data, ArcGIS?, not web mapping (static images) and Google Earth kmz download, semi-open data

Visualizing Medieval Places in Time @DJWrisley
What: mention of real places in medieval French literature by date of composition
How: semi-manual extraction of data, cloud hosting of data, third-party hosting of map, custom time slider written in Java

ReNom (Ronsard vs Rabelais)
What: Database, map visualization, people & places (real, mythical, imaginary) of two French authors
How: semi-automatic extraction of data, Drupal, filterable interface, web mapping and text interconnected

Rai’tu Ramallah @Randa_DH
What:  A visualization of the places mentioned in Barghouti’s novel about Palestine, contrasting places visited and not visited (created in Fall 2013 Intro to DH seminar)–other student projects here
How: manual extraction and geoparsing, color, web mapping (Google Maps), open data

Beirut publishes…  @DJWrisley
What: A thick map of the Lebanese publishing industry over the last century (under construction, course project)
How: Manual extraction from archival materials, cloud database, mobile data collection, web scraping of publication metadata, open dataset to be published (GitHub and Zenodo with DOI)

What: Project quantifying and visualizing the Lord of the Rings, map, timelines
How:  Grid built based on Tolkien’s map, image coordinate system, “infographics”, timelines

“Where are you in Beirut?”  @DJWrisley and ENGL 229
What: A response to Mapping a City without Street Names, visualizing crowd conceptions of location in Beirut
How: human-created data by-product of Mapping Language Contact in Beirut, data field in mobile data collection application (Fulcrum), cloud live hookup, web mapping (CartoDB)

“What do you tell the taxi to get where you are in Beirut?”
What: Another response to Mapping a City without Street Names, visualizing crowd conceptions of closest place for public transport mobility
How: human-created data by-product of Mapping Language Contact in Beirut, data field in mobile data collection application (Fulcrum), cloud hookup, web mapping (CartoDB)

3  Discussion