Suspend Your Disbelief

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Literature Maps

Detail of Kent Haruf map, via

Detail of Kent Haruf map, via

The following guest post is by Emily VanDusen, an FWR intern and first-year student at the University of Michigan.

As a student, a writer, a reader, and simply a person, I have made many a concept map in my day, whether in writing or in my imagination. The organization of interrelated thoughts takes many forms, but few are as straightforward and yet complex as the “literature maps” offered by All you have to do to see the connections and proximity of one author’s “relationship” to another is type in a name and watch the screen bloom. What’s cool is that the site maps out not only how closely a particular author’s work is to other authors, but also how closely their work is related to one another.

There must be some sort of formula for how closely related, and therefore how closely placed, these names are to each other, but I am not bombarded with that complex information; I am simply presented with a network of names to which I can ascribe my own meaning. As someone who still uses her fingers to count and yet can spend hours contemplating the manipulation of syntax in a Faulkner novel, such an arrangement appeals to my literary soul. Of course, this is not to mention the fact that I am susceptible to visual effect: as I watch the various names settle into their places, I have the comfortable feeling that I’m watching thoughts settle inside my own head, just with more speed, efficiency, and style.

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