A Constellation and a Rhizome: Two Studies on Toponyms in Literary Texts
Abstract Although the attention of linguists is commonly drawn to forms other than proper nouns, the significance of place names in particular exceeds the usual frame of deictic and indexical functions, as they encapsulate more than a mere reference in space. In this article, two different examples are presented in order to understand them, along with two practical examples of visualization in literary texts from the beginning of the 20th century. Research on toponym extraction and linkage is discussed from an interdisciplinary perspective, as digital literary studies are not mere numeric accounts: if they deal with detecting, counting, and projecting occurrences, one also ought to describe and criticize the detachment provoked by “blind” computer-based thinking.The first case consists of a preliminary study of travel literature based on Richthofen’s Travel Journals from China (1907). The resulting map retraces the path taken by the author in the Shandong province by combining coordinates, sequences, and a sense of time. In order to critically analyze this synthesis the concept of constellation is introduced and discussed. The second study focuses on a complex work, the literary magazine Die Fackel (1899–1936) with the par-ticular example of co-ccurrences of toponyms. The paths drawn on the map depict chains of thought and lines of f light. The result is understood through the concept of the rhizome, by which heterogeneous information can be connected and displayed. The finality of Visual Linguistics does not reside in an apparatus but rather in the substrate of interpretable representations which put words into perspective.