This project investigates Robert Southey’s place-referencing in his 1801 edition of Thalaba the Destroyer, an epical romance poem in 12 books. The poem’s Islamic hero moves and is moved about in the poem in response to what he understands to be his fate, though he is also directed by the machinations of his enemies, the Domdaniel sorcerers who seek to thwart him as their destined Destroyer, and further seek to undermine the divine script of destiny as written (quite literally) into the natural world of the poem. Thalaba moves in the poem through geopolitical and mythical locations, and these locations are described by means of analogy to many other locations not directly visited by characters in the poem. My project addresses the question: to what extent does the poem Thalaba organize cultural perspectives on world cultures from its vantage point centered in Arabia?

Southey’s epical poems tend to be heavily annotated with prose footnotes, and the 1801 edition of Thalaba is especially striking for the lengthiness of its notes and their positioning beneath the text of the stanza in which they are signaled. Sometimes these notes take up well over half of the page in the printed text! TEI encoding positions the annotations inline at the point at which they are signalled, and thus my TEI reading view of Thalaba hosted by the TAPAS project in some way reproduces the immediate presence of the notes in their sometimes dialogic, sometimes ironic, and typically comparative interaction with the main text of the poem. TEI markup goes still further in helping us to chart the relationships Southey generates between text and notes. Southey’s references to places and cultures around the world are a key feature of his writings, but are not easy for us to study without the assistance of computer processing. The network analysis experiment I document on these pages provides a way to visualize how Southey plotted mythical and geographical locations in his poem, to help illuminate his juxtapositioning of world cultures through the textual machinery of this ornate poem. In producing a network analysis and examining network statistics, we can study how Southey’s poem places world cultures in comparative juxtaposition: effectively generating a network map of places pulled close together by analogy or hinged to each other by way of being frequently mentioned together.