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"I am making a mappemunde" : prolegomena to the study of spatial translations in The Maximus Poems Starnes, Jason Vernon

Abstract

Charles Olson's The Maximus Poems are discussed in terms of their spatial references to the specificity of Gloucester, Massachusetts. Embedded references to early nautical explorations (including those implicated in Homer's Odyssey) involve Maximus in a network of "spatial translations" which it manipulates through poetic revisioning of links between topography, myth, history, and typographic and cartographic representations. Olson's innovative Projective Verse is coupled with his intense allegiance to Herodotean history, or "what you find out for yrself" as the poet explores and discovers the spatialized past of the port city he called home. Michel de Certeau's theories of space and place are deployed in explication of patterns of repetition which form mises en abyme, a fundamental figure that describes the scaling nature of Olson's historical and topographical explorations. Moving through multiple visual perspectives, a link is ultimately established between the orienting dynamism of cartographic operations and the smaller-scale orientations of the individual body in space known as proprioception. In Maximus, individual movement makes space of static place, and self-similar patterns extending from the scale of the body to that of the universe are illuminated by the central mise en abyme of the map, within which the mapmaker is visible, producing that very map. Myths, the "spoken correlative" of actions, are processed and recreated by Maximus as it posits humans in a continuity of space- and self-exploration.

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