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Space, Place, and Story in the Siege of Antioch Project

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The Siege of Antioch Project is a collaborative digital project, begun in 2017, between Fordham University’s Center for Medieval Studies and a UK-based team of scholars. While the Project's primary aim is to produce a full digital edition and translation of a critically important, poorly known Old French verse account of the First Crusade, the Fordham team is also committed to providing visitors to the Project's WordPress site (https://medievaldigital.ace.fordham.edu/siegeofantioch/the-text/) with resources to understand the poem’s historical context. One of the central resources that the team has decided to create is a series of maps, assembled on the Carto platform, to guide readers through the geography of the text. This aspect of the Project, however, raises two crucial questions: can one satisfactorily map a semi-fictional, poetic world onto digital geo-coordinates; and, if so, how does one generate maps that are useful to the users of the website at this stage, when the Fordham team only receives its geo-data gradually? This paper suggests solutions to each question. Although the semi-fictional world of the poet does not always map easily onto coordinates, it is possible to adopt a consistent practice that places dots for fictitious or unknown places near identifiable, "real world" places with which the intangible places are associated. When paired with explicit explanations of the team's mapping practices and associated study resources (such as in-depth "place profiles") these challenging situations present the Project with opportunities to educate the website's users about the fluid geographic worlds that medieval authors often constructed. To generate maps that are immediately useful for the website's audience, the Fordham team has created a series of dynamic layers in Carto that overlay the base map. These layers provide users with analytical data that tells them about the sections of the poem that are completed and currently available online. This process thus allows the Fordham team to experiment with maps in ways that would be impossible in print editions, and to share its work-in-progress maps with users in a format that has pedagogical value and will generate further interest in the Project as a whole.