Robert Jordan’s
Nearest Neighbor:
A For Whom the Bell Tolls GIS

Moacir P. de Sá Pereira
University of Chicago

Robert Jordan’s
Nearest Neighbour:
A For Whom the Bell Tolls GIS

Moacir P. de Sá Pereira
University of Chicago

A quick map

  1. Question-forming reading
  2. Epistemological quandary
  3. Q&A with a GIS

Question-forming reading

Top 10 Cities Mentioned in For Whom the Bell Tolls

  1. Madrid (53)
  2. Segovia (24)
  3. Valencia (24)
  4. La Granja (21)
  5. Navacerrada (10)
  6. Ávila (9)
  7. El Escorial (9)
  8. Valladolid (9)
  9. Missoula (6)
  10. Otero (6)


Missoula, MT

Split the novel into three heteroglottic sites

The novel orchestrates all its themes, the totality of the world of objects and ideas depicted and expressed in it, by means of the social diversity of speech types [raznorečie] and by the differing individual voices that flourish under such conditions… These distinctive links and interrelationships between utterances and languages, this movement of the theme through different languages and speech types, its dispersion into the rivulets and droplets of social heteroglossia, its dialogization—this is the basic distinguishing feature of the stylistics of the novel.
Bakhtin, 262–263

Split the novel into three heteroglottic sites

[The site is] an immanent (self-organising) event space that is differentiated and differentiating, but whose emergent properties also include congealments and blockages [as well as] always an emergent property of its interacting human and non-human inhabitants [that can be considered by following the] interactive practices through their localized connections. [Sites are actualized instances of both] repetition of similar orders and practices [as well as opportunities for the] emergence of new, creative relations or singularities [from the virtual into the actual.]
Woodward et al., 272. Marston et al., 425.

Three heteroglottic sites

  1. Narrative (≥ 26 total mentions)
  2. Discursive (≥ 230 total mentions)
  3. Jordan’s monologues (≥ 231 total mentions)

Geocode everything, run some geostatistical analyses…

Wait a minute…

“Geocode” sounds like engaging the real world, not the fictional…

And “geostatistical” sounds…



Moretti, despite dozens of maps of “fictional” worlds…

[Literary geography] may indicate the study of space in literature; or, else, of literature in space… fictional [vs.] real historical space… The two spaces may occasionally (and interestingly) overlap, but they are essentially different and I will treat them as such.
Moretti, p. 3

Certeau splits world makers into voyeurs and walkers

[Standing atop the World Trade Center transfigures one] into a voyeur [so one can] read [the world], to be a solar Eye, looking down like a god… The ordinary practitioners of the city live “down below”… whose bodies follow the thicks and thins of an urban “text” they write without being able to read it.
Certeau, 92–93.

“Draw me a box of your epistemological quandary”

lamb box



“in space”

Critical geography


“in literature”

Spatial turn


Geocritical oscillation

Westphal understands that the referentiality operating between fiction and the “real” world is characterized by constant movement, or oscillation, as he puts it, whereby one can never really fix or pin down the referent.
Tally, xi.

Walkers and voyeurs, quals and quants

GIS is intimate with non-quantitative data and modes of analysis, while its application in quantitative geography and spatial analysis, has been surprisingly limited. Most academic and other users rely on its areas of functionality that can serve qualitative researchers equally well.
Pavlovskaya, 30–31

“Draw me a sheep”


Make me a map.

Cities and towns (and smaller) mentioned in FWTBT

View map on GeoCommons

Robert Jordan’s nearest neighbors


Obs. mean dist. (km)

Exp. mean dist. (km)


Z score


Jordan monologue


















A mixed methods approach

Spain, the land of the patria chica

The general comprehensive term “Spain,” which is convenient for geographers and politicians, is calculated to mislead the traveler. Nothing can be more vague or inaccurate than to predicate any single thing of Spain or Spaniards which will be equally applicable to all its heterogeneous component parts.
Ford, 1

Mixed methods yield unexpected results

  1. GIS poses an unexpected question: “Why are Jordan’s monologues so spread out over Spain in comparison to the stories told by the partisans or the plot itself?”
  2. Forces a rereading to find an answer with the new information: “Because Jordan is constantly thinking about a fictional, unified Spain.”
  3. Which reopens other aspects of the reading: Jordan’s republicanism, his “similarity” to Maria, and his obsession with discipline.
  4. Which then begs for iteration.

“Draw me a sheep”


Make me a map.

Now solve new questions in the text.

Works Cited


Moacir P. de Sá Pereira
University of Chicago