EUROPEAN MAPS OF THE MIND: MEDIEVAL AND MODERN CARTOGRAPHY BETWEEN THE MYTHICAL AND THE RATIONAL Cover Image

EUROPEAN MAPS OF THE MIND: MEDIEVAL AND MODERN CARTOGRAPHY BETWEEN THE MYTHICAL AND THE RATIONAL
EUROPEAN MAPS OF THE MIND: MEDIEVAL AND MODERN CARTOGRAPHY BETWEEN THE MYTHICAL AND THE RATIONAL

Author(s): Estella Antoaneta Ciobanu
Subject(s): Literary Texts
Published by: Editura Universităţii din Bucureşti
Keywords: cartographic mythologising; Christendom

Summary/Abstract: This paper investigates how medieval and modern world maps (including maps of the New World) both as a mode of representation (a view of the self) and as a scopic instrument (a view of the other) tread a path to knowledge vacillating between the overtly mythical and overtly rational, the latter on the verge of object-ification, consonant with the early modern “culture of dissection.” The late medieval Christian mappae mundi represent a powerful statement of the nascent western European identity surrounded, and challenged, by the religious other. Representing a space infused with grace, such maps lay no lesser claims to the place of the other than later maps do, but they view this within the great soteriological narrative; their overtly mythical approach appeared ontologically meaning-ful(l). Later, world maps maintained the medieval “ethnographic” (though not theocratic) tradition yet advanced progressively more abstract notions of space. Nonetheless, the medieval anxiety about body integrity underpinning both the notion of Christendom and its cartographic encodation, ultimately the clash between claims to certain places and the identities of inhabitants and visitors, would be passed down to further generations of cartographers. Modern cartographic mythologising collapses an abstract representation of space as a grid of parallels and meridians with the monsterization-cum-feminisation of the other and of nature. Underpinning it, the re-conceptualisation of the earth as no longer God’s creation but a mere globe to be subjected by the Heads of State or a planet always already visible to the scientific gaze is paralleled by the gradually more scientifically rigorous view of the human body in general and the potentially pregnant female body in particular translated in trends in dissection portraiture (the subject of dissection often being the abject social subject). Both were predicated on the disciplinary zeal of modernity, which often successfully suppresses the workings of its rhetoric.

  • Issue Year: 2006
  • Issue No: 02
  • Page Range: 17-24
  • Page Count: 8
  • Language: English