In This Article Expand or collapse the "in this article" section Geography and Literature

  • Introduction
  • General Overviews
  • Reference Sources
  • Journals
  • Early Years
  • Regionalism
  • Humanist Geography
  • Critical and Radical Geography
  • Space as Social Construction
  • Sociocultural Spatialities
  • Feminist Perspectives
  • Social Change and Emancipatory Potential
  • Education
  • Literary Tourism
  • Mythical Worlds
  • Contesting Viewpoints
  • Textual Spaces
  • Narrative Spaces
  • Methodologies

Geography Geography and Literature
Juha Ridanpää
  • LAST REVIEWED: 26 February 2013
  • LAST MODIFIED: 26 February 2013
  • DOI: 10.1093/obo/9780199874002-0013


In human and cultural geographies, fictive literature, novels, and poems have been used in different manners for over a century. Literature has been an object of study, a thematic context for research, a perspective through which the world is perceived, a methodological tool, and more. This relatively understudied field of geographic research, often titled “literary geography,” includes several overlapping perspectives following the main epistemological and theoretical turns in the fields of human and cultural geographies. In the early years, literature was often used to add aesthetic nuances to geographic descriptions or, slightly paradoxically, to function as a database for separating fact from fiction. Subsequently, before the 1960s and the rising interest in regionalism, literary geography was not actually geographic analysis of literature but rather a helping hand in descriptive geographic portrayals. Regionalist, humanist, and socially critical perspectives diversified the ways literature could be used in analytic terms and thereby turned literature into an object of study. Since the “cultural turn” of human geographies at the end of the 1980s, more-variable approaches have occurred, and the manner of perceiving the world through the lens of literature has become an increasingly natural and not so exceptional perspective of research. In addition, in a similar fashion to that in the early years of literary geography, quotations, excerpts, and sections from literature are constantly referred to in geographic studies to illustrate or explain the topics discussed in “other words” or—what is actually a more plausible reason—to add certain aesthetic nuances to arguments. The field of geographic studies of literature has been categorized thematically by following the development of research in human and cultural geographies in a somewhat chronological manner. This is a specifically geographic viewpoint; although there are several interesting literary studies that focus on questions related to spatiality, these studies are not included in this article.

General Overviews

The field of literary geography is relatively difficult to place into systematic categories because topics and viewpoints often overlap, and it may be for this reason that the number of general overviews has been low. The best general overviews are relatively old and therefore outdated, but Noble and Dhussa 1990 still provides a good perspective on the background of tradition and major turns in the early development. In a similar fashion, Pocock 1988 takes a decent chronological look at how literature has been used in the course of geographic studies. Some overviews include a specific critical argument, as with the excellent coverage in Brosseau 1994, where the stance is purposely critical, arguing that in literary geography the text itself should function more as a target of research. Similarly, Sharp 2000 dissects the tradition and development of literary geography from a more critical perspective. Other overviews instead dissect the course of research from certain theoretical perspectives, such as the overview offered in Lando 1996, which is focused more toward humanist approaches, whereas Mallory and Simpson-Housley 1987, an edited collection, attempts to be, as its title suggests, “a meeting of the disciplines.” In taking a look at the development of the geographic study of literature, several fresh articles include good overviews of the development in the field.

  • Brosseau, Marc. “Geography’s Literature.” Progress in Human Geography 18.3 (1994): 333–353.

    DOI: 10.1177/030913259401800304

    An excellent critical overview of the historical background of literary geography, ending in a critical argument of how geographers should give more voice to the text itself. Relies partly on French geographic studies of literature. Available online for purchase or by subscription.

  • Lando, Fabio. “Fact and Fiction: Geography and Literature.” GeoJournal 38.1 (1996): 3–18.

    A general introduction to the bibliography on the geographic studies of real and literary landscapes, understandings of the sense of place, the concepts of rooting and uprooting, and the definitions of inscapes and territorial consciousness. The focus is specifically on humanist geography and its epistemological reflections. Available online for purchase or by subscription.

  • Mallory, William E., and Paul Simpson-Housley, eds. Geography and Literature: A Meeting of the Disciplines. Syracuse, NY: Syracuse University Press, 1987.

    Collection of diverse papers that dissect the literary aspects of landscape, from several points of view. In addition to humanist perspectives, the volume includes realistic, socially critical, symbolic, metaphoric, and surrealistic interpretations of literary landscapes.

  • Noble, Allen G., and Ramesh Dhussa. “Image and Substance: A Review of Literary Geography.” Journal of Cultural Geography 10.2 (1990): 49–65.

    DOI: 10.1080/08873639009478447

    A historical review of major developments in the course of studies focusing on the subjective meanings associated with landscape. Gives a wider perspective on how the literature and the perspective of geography have been applied together. Available online for purchase or by subscription.

  • Pocock, Douglas C. D. “Geography and Literature.” Progress in Human Geography 12.1 (1988): 87–102.

    DOI: 10.1177/030913258801200106

    The article thoroughly reviews the interface between geography and literature, by dissecting how literature has been “utilized” in the history of geographic research. Available online for purchase or by subscription.

  • Sharp, Joanne P. “Towards a Critical Analysis of Fictive Geographies.” Area 32.3 (2000): 327–334.

    DOI: 10.1111/j.1475-4762.2000.tb00145.x

    This paper critiques both humanist and regional perspectives as well as critical geographers for taking a limited view of the relationship between geography and literature. It offers an engagement with literary fiction that analyzes the content and form of the text, leaving room for its distinctive voice. Available online for purchase or by subscription.

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