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Mapping Yiddish Europe: A Locus Tempus Project

Agnieszka Legutko, Germanic Languages Department

“Every map tells a story:” Empowering student geospatial mapping for better understanding of literary and cultural heritage 

Digital Humanities projects enhance the classroom experience in multifarious ways: they allow students to explore the material in an unconventional and meaningful way, empower students to engage in “participatory mapping” and “place-based learning” (Corbett & Lagault, 2019), and facilitate collaborative creation and analysis of visual data. 

This presentation showcases Locus Tempus, a new digital mapping tool custom-designed at Columbia University, used in a content class, Yiddish Autobiography (Fall 2021), in order to map and analyze the life trajectories of the Yiddish authors we studied throughout the semester. Did these writers’ lives overlap spatially? If so, what did this convergence mean in terms of the European Yiddish intellectual milieu? How did geographical spaces influence the authors’ understanding of their own temporary positionality in history?  

Locus Tempus allowed students to engage with the literary texts in a new way, locate the temporal past in the spatial present, connect individual life stories of famous writers with concrete geographical locations, experiment with making memory tangible through geospatial digital mapping, foster a new connection with the Yiddish literary and cultural heritage, and finally, to create a shared online archive. 

The Mapping Yiddish Europe project resulted in an illuminating discovery that the borderlands between diverse cultures produced a large number of influential writers, leading to a reflection on the human condition in general that liminal spaces are conducive to creativity. This realization added a new layer of meaning to our understanding of Yiddish literary and cultural heritage through student-generated collaborative data visualization and analysis. Mapping Yiddish Europe on Locus Tempus was an inspirational, educational, and rewarding experience.

Celebration of Teaching and Learning Symposium

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