GIS, Texts, and Images: New Approaches


  • Ian Gregory Lancaster University
  • David Cooper


picturesque, romantic literature, Thomas Gray, Samuel Taylor Coleridge, tour, Newsbook


In this talk, given at the Digital Humanities Conference 2010, I describe work done in mapping two journals kept by two eighteenth-century poets as they toured the Lake District: Thomas Gray and Samuel Taylor Coleridge--the latter a Romantic writer.  This work, as well as work done analysing place names and collocated words in the Lancaster Newsbook Corpus in order to determine which place names were associated with terms of war and which with monetary terms.  The work we have done suggests that GIS can aid literary studies as a tool for both close and distant reading.

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Author Biographies

Ian Gregory, Lancaster University

I am a geographer by training who, after doing an MSc in Geographical Information Systems (GIS) at the University of Edinburgh, got a one-year contract at Queen Mary, University of London working to create a GIS of some nineteenth century administrative data. Somehow this evolved into the Great Britain Historical GIS (GBHGIS), a major database that comprises the majority of statistical data from sources such as the census and vital registration data for the nineteenth and twentieth centuries. This took several years to build and over £500,000 of funding, primarily from the ESRC. It was also the subject of my PhD. Since leaving London I worked at the University of Portsmouth and then as the Associate Director of Centre for Data Digitisation and Analysis at the Queens University, Belfast. In September 2006 I moved to Lancaster to lead a new initiative in Digital Humanities. I am the review editor of the International Journal of Humanities and Arts Computing and I have served on the editorial boards of the journals Social Science History and Historical Methods, have twice been network co-chair of the Social Science History Associations'sHistorical Geography network and have served a term on their Executive Committee. I am also network co-charir of the European Social Science History Association's Spatial and Digital Historynetwork. For several years I was on the Institutional Board and Technical Steering Committee of the Electronic Cultural Atlas Initiative. As shown below I have published widely on historical GIS including two books, one by CUP, and articles in journals including Transactions of the Institute of British GeographersAnnals of the Assoc. of American GeographersProgress in Human Geography, and the British Medical Journal.

David Cooper

David's research focuses on what could be broadly defined as literary geographies: the ways in which creative writers (particularly poets) think geographically; and the ways in which different strands of spatial theory can open up new readings of the textual representation of landscape and environment. This interdisciplinary research currently moves between three overlapping areas of interest: first-generation Romanticism (Wordsworth and Coleridge); post-war/contemporary British and Irish poetry; and the cultural geography of the Lake District. David is currently working on two intersecting projects. The first is a critical monograph - Rewriting the Lakes: Spaces, Places, Traces - which brings together theories of space (including phenomenology, critical cartography, spatial theology and 'more-than-representational' thinking) and intertextuality to explore the literary representation of the Lake District in the twentieth and twenty-first centuries. The second is Poetry & Geography: Space and Place in Post-War Poetry: a collection of new essays on both canonical and neglected British and Irish writers co-edited with Neal Alexander (University of Nottingham).

David has an additional, and developing, interest in digital humanities; and, more specifically, the conceptual and critical possibilities of using Geographic Information Systems (GIS) technology to map out cultural representations of space and place. These ideas were provisionally explored - with Dr Ian Gregory, Senior Lecturer in Digital Humanities - in the British Academy-funded pilot project, 'Mapping the Lakes: A Literary GIS', which focused on topographic texts by Thomas Gray and Samuel Taylor Coleridge. As a result of this project, he was a founding member of an AHRC-funded network which brought together scholars from different institutions (University of Liverpool; University of Nottingham; University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill; and Lancaster University), and from different disciplines, with a shared interest in cultural mapping. He is currently working on a series of interrelated projects exploring the scholarly, pedagogic and knowledge transfer potential of the use of digital (especially mobile) technologies to present, and to reflect upon,the cultural layering of landscape.

A former Arts Officer at the Wordsworth Trust, Grasmere, and Literature Development Officer for the City of York, David has taught undergraduate and postgraduate courses at the Universities of Salford and Cumbria and is an Associate of the Higher Education Academy. He reviews for the international Digital Humanities conference and theInternational Journal of Humanities and Arts Computing. He also sits on the editorial board of the Centre for North-West Regional Studies at Lancaster University and is the current Chair of the Norman Nicholson Society.