Exploring Place in the French of Italy

Welcome to “Exploring Place in the French of Italy,” a project of Fordham’s Center for Medieval Studies. The goal of the site is to map all of the place names mentioned in a selection of medieval French-language works created or copied on the Italian peninsula from roughly 1250 to 1500 and featured on Fordham's French of Italy website.

Mapping place names provides a view of these texts that varies from more traditional approaches, which often focus on close reading or the examination of one particular textual tradition over time. Exploring these texts from a more distant vantage point is a valuable exercise for both literary and historical interpretation – the maps you see displayed here suggest patterns which call out for explanation, either through a study of the texts themselves or the context of their production. This approach is especially appropriate for the French of Italy corpus, where the choice of a non-native language -- that is French instead of Latin or a local Italian dialect -- invites these sorts of textual and contextual explanations. For readers interested in the Middle Ages more broadly, these maps provide a way of understanding the places medieval Italians described and imagined when they chose to write in French.

This site contains maps of all the identifiable place names for sixteen individual French language texts written in Italy, as well as a composite map that plots all of the place-names mentioned in our chosen corpus (the simple map view plots all of these points only once). Users may also see how frequently particular sites are mentioned, both for individual works and for the corpus as a whole (the weighted map view provides this data). The essays that accompany this collection of maps explain the value of a geographic approach and detail the technical process of developing the project. The micro-essays page highlights questions that came to us as we created the maps, and invites users to think through these visualizations in similarly innovative ways. To this end, the accumulated data underlying these maps can be examined, downloaded, and re-purposed by our site users. 

This project grows out of a collaboration with another digital project,Visualizing Medieval Places, initiated by Dr. David Joseph Wrisley, a 2014-2015 Medieval Fellow at Fordham's Center for Medieval Studies. More on the collaborative nature of this project can be found on the contributors page. Visitors interested in creating similar projects will be interested in the technical essay, which outlines our process in building the exhibit and collectively curating our data.