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This chapter investigates the development of mapping for blind and low-vision people in France and Britain. Originally handmade for a wealthy few, tactile maps attracted the attention of eighteenth-century French intellectuals who strategically employed them to challenge the assumption that vision was necessary to the formation of civilized personhood. Blind people interacting with tangible maps of various forms and media became, in depictions aimed at the sighted, potent images of tactual subjectivity and participation in the public sphere. Beginning with Denis Diderot’s account of handcrafted maps in his Addition to the Letter on the Blind and concluding with the Scottish educator John Alston’s 1839 printed tactile map of the British Isles, Carlson shows how maps read with the fingers spurred a democratic educational movement that spread from France to America and to Britain, and, in recasting personhood, society, and nation, helped to change the status of blind people around the globe. Valentin Haüy’s embossed Essay on the Education of the Blind (1786), discussing the use of tangible maps at the world’s first school for blind children, and its translation by blind poet Thomas Blacklock, helped establish cartoliteracy as a key component of literacy and social integration.
Romantic Cartographies is the first collection to explore the reach and significance of cartographic practice in Romantic-period culture. Revealing the diverse ways in which the period sought to map and spatialise itself, the volume also considers the engagement of our own digital cultures with Romanticism's 'map-mindedness'. Original, exploratory essays engage with a wide range of cartographic projects, objects and experiences in Britain, and globally. Subjects range from Wordsworth, Clare and Walter Scott, to Romantic board games and geographical primers, to reveal the pervasiveness of the cartographic imagination in private and public spheres. Bringing together literary analysis, creative practice, geography, cartography, history, politics and contemporary technologies – just as the cartographic enterprise did in the Romantic period itself – Romantic Cartographies enriches our understanding of what it means to 'map' literature and culture.
The three-part structure of this introduction reflects the larger organization of the volume as a whole into three linked and overlapping sections that each represent a wide range of approaches to the cartographic culture of the Romantic period but also reflect on and contribute to each other. Anticipating the structure of the main volume then, Part I of the Introduction is written by Damian Walford Davies; Part II by Julia S. Carlson; and Part III by Sally Bushell.
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