Mapping the Travels of Captain Bob Singleton
One of the most appealing aspects of fiction is its deviance from the real world, yet many authors of the genre choose to toe the line that separates fact from fiction with mixed success. In his novel, Life, Adventures, and Pyracies, of the Famous Captain Singleton, Daniel Defoe paints a vivid picture of the real world, as it was known to him. However, humanity’s understanding of geography has improved greatly in the 300 years since the novel’s publishing, so the “real world” that Defoe describes seems almost fictional to the modern reader.
My research goal was to ameliorate the two world views. I performed a close-reading of the text, making special note of every geographic, temporal, and toponymic detail. Using the details from the text, I examined popular maps from the time of the text’s publishing to generate a crude map that followed Singleton’s travels from birth to death. I then compiled my findings in a series of maps that track his many journeys as a pirate on modern maps while noting discrepancies that arose from the evolution of our geographic understanding of the world. The final result is a supplement to the book that helps the reader contextualize the plethora of detail given by Defoe that seems false but is actually just outdated.
This project has led me to put much more weight in not only the context of a work of literature but in the many ways in which that context differs from my own. Additionally, working with PURM has given me a greater understanding of the inner working of Academia and allowed me to participate in it fully. My research project was enlightening in more ways than one and shall be an experience that influences my career in academia hereafter.