Faculty Sponsor

Elizabeth Tucker


This paper explores the function of cartographical representations in fantasy literature and their implications in a cartographic tradition marked by Imperialism and Colonialism. Using the Tolkienian terminology of “secondary worlds”, I analyzed the features of genre-setting maps such as Middle Earth and Narnia, noting the function of frontiers within these representations of imaginary realms. Compared with the maps of early European exploration in the Americas and Africa, the Eurocentric tendencies of the two works of fantasy literature reveal themselves even in a component of world-building as fundamental as map-making. Deviations from these traditional representations of frontier-lands in Ursula Le Guin’s Earthsea series work to display in contrast how map-making influences the way other-ness in humanity operates within the work itself. I then explore the function of frontiers in the context of secondary world expansion, placed into the context of transmedia, and exemplified through the work of George R.R.Martin’s A Game of Thrones franchise. I mark the expansion of Martin’s maps over the course of the series’ existence and expansion through various outlets of media, which reveal a pattern of exploiting cartographical frontiers. I argue that while contemporary secondary worlds may have moved past traditions of the genre more closely associated with imperialism and Eurocentrism (especially concerning populations), new traditions of growth suggest an embracing of transmedia expansionism, not without its own parallels with the process of colonialization. Beyond the ethical implications of such parallels, this secondary world expansionism further emphasizes the subtle power of frontiers in fantasy map-making.