Wednesday, September 20, 2017

7 Questions Related to Cultural Geo-Tagging

By Kenton Rambsy

Despite the long history and dense population of African Americans living in or near the nation’s capital, the predominately black quadrants of Washington D.C., have a relatively small presence in the scholarship on African American literature. Edward P. Jones’s two collections of short stories provide thorough and expansive depictions of neighbor and cultural landmarks in DC.

In my grad course I’m teaching this semester, Lost in the City, we analyze why Jones’s meticulous city narratives are collectively groundbreaking in the geographic histories of African American short stories.

For years now, I have been trying to utilize Cultural Geo-Tagging as a method to enhance some of my examinations of literature. This process refers to the uses of digital tools to identify, organize, and analyze geographic features of multiple texts. With this approach, my students and I study Edward P. Jones’s short fiction alongside other canonical texts and pinpoint the extent to which Jones is attuned to the landscape of Washington, DC.

Readers interested in cultural geo-tagging might raise the following questions:

1. Is the story set in a real or fictional location?
2. How often and what types of landmarks are mentioned in a given text?
3. How are social spaces such as front porches, blues clubs, and corner stores integrated into a story?
4. How is language used as a geographic marker?
5. What words in the text relate to the actual movements and positioning of characters within the story?
6. How does the geographic descriptions relate to other texts set in similar regions?

Lost in the City: A graduate-level literature course on Edward P. Jones

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