The Pleasure of the Coast: A Hydro-graphic Novel

Description (in English): 

The Pleasure of the Coast: A Hydro-graphic Novel is a bilingual web-based work in English and French. This work was commissioned by the « Mondes, interfaces et environnements à l’ère du numérique » research group at Université Paris 8 in partnership with the cartographic collections of the Archives nationales. The title and much of the text in the work détourne Roland Barthes’ The Pleasure of the Text (1973), replacing the word ‘text’ with the word ‘coast’. The images are drawn from an archive of coastal elevations made on a voyage for discovery to the South Pacific by the French hydrographer Beautemps-Beaupré (1793). In French, the term ‘bande dessinée’ refers to the drawn strip. What better term to describe the hydrographic practice of charting new territories by drawing views of the coast from the ship? In English, the term for ‘bande dessinée’ is ‘graphic novel’. In this hydro-graphic novel, Barthes’ détourned philosophy inflects the scientific and imperialist aspirations of the voyage with an undercurrent of bodily desire. Excerpts from An Introduction to the Practice of Nautical Surveying and the Construction of Sea-Charts, written by Beautemps-Beaupré intermingle with excerpts from Suzanne and the Pacific (1921), a symbolist novel by Jean Giraudoux written in direct opposition to the mechanistic view of science based on the assumption of an objective reality. This three language system unfolds in long horizontally scrolling web pages, mimicking the coast as it slips past the ship. This is a work of overlapping peripheries. It takes place, as it were during a period of imperialist expansion. These newly discovered coastlines are written over the surface of a topography which had already been inscribed by its inhabitants through thousands of years of use.  The practice of hydrography sits at the peripheries of our contemporary understanding of the technology underpinning the maps of the world we know today.

Pull Quotes: 

I summon simply a circular memory: the impossibility of living outside the infinite coast.

I left for another world as for a coasting voyage, innocently; trying to see all of France, like an island, as I left it behind. I made a sketch of the land commencing with those parts which, being most remote, were the least liable to change in appearance. I savoured the sway of formulas, the reversal of origins, the ease which brings the anterior coast out of the subsequent coast. At last the sky appeared, the whole sky, so pure, so laden with stars.

Technical notes: 

this work is not optimised for phones

Research Collection that references this work:

Screen shots: 
The Pleasure of the Coast || J. R. Carpenter, 2019
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Record posted by: 
J. R. Carpenter