Terræ Incognitæ as Ego Incognita: Mapping Thomas De Quincey’s Confessions of an English Opium-Eater
Salt, Joel E
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Mapping literature has become a common metaphor in recent years, often to represent an organisational principle or to suggest the importance of geography in the critical work. This paper examines the place of geography in literature and demonstrates that maps can add to our knowledge of literature. I use Richard Horwood’s 1792–9 Plan of the Cities of London and Westminster to visualise the movements of Thomas De Quincey in his Confessions of an English Opium-Eater by plotting his movements within London and contrasting them to his earlier travels in Wales. I demonstrate that De Quincey’s writing process creates an imaginative London, London imaginis, that has the real London, London res, as a source. The London imaginis is shaped by De Quincey’s language and becomes an infernal prison where his “Dark Interpreter” associates with a community of pariahs, as Joetta Harty refers to it. This is in stark contrast to the paradisal, verdurous, Wales chapters where De Quincey is sociable and free. This spatial reading examines the difference between De Quincey’s identity in Wales and in London by exploring the language he uses and the spatial constructions in both London and Wales that become apparent when plotted on a map. This mapping demonstrates how De Quincey artificially constructs both his London imaginis and his London identity, his ego imaginis, to purposefully align himself among the lower classes.
DegreeMaster of Arts (M.A.)
Copyright DateSeptember 2010