Mapping the Great Lakes: The Somageography of Water and Land, 1615-1828

Michael Simeone, Christopher Morris, Kenton Guadron McHenry, Robert Markley

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Building on our earlier computational analysis of 237 digitized maps of the Great Lakes, we use maps and accounts of Lake Huron, bookended by those of Samuel de Champlain (1616) and Henry Bayfield (1828), to explore the concept of “somageography”: how first-hand experiences with natural environments are filtered and reconfigured by map-makers, rendering maps as irreducibly complex representations of particular human and environmental conditions. While maps of Lake Huron, in particular, may appear to become more accurate by the 1820s, Bayfield's detailed charts are simply epistemologically frozen moments when the individual map was sketched, which were then months or years later reproduced as though they were an unproblematic, even ontological, representation of an environmentally dynamic and climatologically unstable region. Our computational approach paradoxically reinforces our sense that the methods for mapping the natural world during the long eighteenth century cannot be understood apart from observational and biophysical experience-somageography-in a dynamic landscape.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)169-195
Number of pages26
JournalEighteenth-Century Fiction
Issue number1
StatePublished - Oct 1 2019

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Literature and Literary Theory


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