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April 19, 2010

Maps on BBC Four

BBC 4 seems to be having something of a map-week - last night, "Maps: Power, Plunder and Possession", the first of a 3-part series, focused on tracing the development of mapping techniques over the last 3000 years. Whilst the framing analysis tended towards the simplistic (although it's encouraging that the programme did at least raise questions and prompt thinking about representation and so on), I was interested to learn more about the more technical side of mapping and how the processes and techniques have evolved over the centuries. A variety of fascinating maps were on display from a range of historical periods and places, opening up fascinating insights into the ways in which different cultures understand and conceptualise space, location and movement. Throughout, I found myself coming back to the centrality of movement to mapping, and the role it plays in spatial experience, understanding, and representation- from the Roman map which privileged distance as the organising principle between places, to the Polynesian map drawn from the memory - the memory of travelling through and experiencing the spaces it portrayed. Movement is the precondition of mapping, one of the primary reasons for needing a map. And thinking about maps and movement draws out the underlying tension that all maps display: the attempt at (and pretence of) an accurate representation of space, and the unrepresentability of spaces which always resist containment in representable form. To travel through space which has been mapped is to experience the disjuncture between representation and reality- I'm reminded here of Hetty in Adam Bede, who sets out on her journey from the midlands to Windsor and finds that a distance that “that seems but a slight journey as you look at the map" is in fact "wearily long" to the traveller.


1675 map of a journey - from Mapping the Imagination exhibition

And yet despite their inherent problems and contradictions, maps have that continuing, irresistable appeal; as George Eliot notes later in Middlemarch, “a map was a fine thing to study when you were disposed to think of something else, being made up of names that would turn into a chime if you went back upon them”. The series starting tonight on BBC Four suggests the promise of the delights that maps hold, titled as it is The Beauty of Maps. The website contains some interesting info and links (Maptube looks intriguing), and there's also an exhibition at the British Library running until September, which I'll be sure to get along to.

May 11, 2008

TV adaptation of Little Dorrit

Writing about web page

My current favourite Dickens novel brought to TV by the wonderful Andrew Davies: in a word, yay!

October 11, 2007

Forthcoming TV adaptations

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I'm very much looking forward to these forthcoming adaptations of Sarah Waters' Affinity and The Night Watch, particularly as I managed to miss both Tipping the Velvet (BBC, 2002) and Fingersmith (BBC, 2005). I haven't read Tipping the Velvet, but Affinity and The Night Watch are more complex novels than Fingersmith in terms of their narrative structure, and will present interesting challenges in adaptation; The Night Watch in particular, as it moves backwards through the chronological order of events without any return to the starting/end point. Affinity meanwhile is composed entirely of diary entries, and will require careful handling of the spiritualist theme which makes the novel the darkest and most intricate of Waters' novels. The novel is in good hands, however- the screenplay is being written by Andrew Davies who adapted Tipping the Velvet and numerous others including Bleak House (2005), and the wonderful 1995 Pride and Prejudice. It doesn't say who's working on The Night Watch but as it's another BBC adaptation, hopefully it'll live up to the success of their previous two productions.

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