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Date Author Title
2012-02-10 Steve Gardiner Maps as a literary text

In recent years, the idea of new literacy has created an expansion of what constitutes a text and what skills are involved in literacy and gaining information from a resource.

I have been glad to see this because for many years, one of my favorite texts to consult has been maps. Road maps. Contour maps. Trail maps. Lake maps. City street maps. Any maps.


There is something exciting about a map. The lines represent reality. Their positions on the page suggest a place that exists and that suggestion is powerful, an inspiration to the imagination. More experience with comparing maps with the reality they represent leads to a better use of the imagination when looking at a map. Translating those lines and marks into a visual picture is an adventure of information, a journey of ideas.


A line on a map is a representation. Depending on its location and nature, it could be a road, a bridge, a trail, a river, an elevation on a mountain. Knowing what the lines mean and how they relate to the landscape lets the viewer picture the terrain and see what it might be like. Looking over a map of a new part of the world is to experience a flood of emotion. It is intrigue. It is excitement. It is curiosity. It is a desire to know.


A map can be enough to entice a visit to a faraway place or to prompt a trip to a nearby location. It can also work in the other direction and bring back a flood of memories from a place visited earlier.


It is a joy to return from traveling and revisit the destination through the text of a map. It is then that the map truly comes to life. The lines become sentences or paragraphs, filling in the details of a story lived and remembered. It is a chance to pull out images and sounds from the page. It is a chance to relive a journey and its related emotions and sensations. A map is capable of launching a mind toward adventure and beauty just as surely as a plane, train, or boat can propel a body. A simple map may be the doorway to reliving exciting and wonderful experiences that give meaning and excitement to our lives.

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