Henrik Ibsen spent much of his life on the move. Although he demonstrated an admirable discipline at the height of his career by working systematically each day on his writing, he also spent many of those same years moving from place to place in Italy and Germany. Unlike some other Scandinavian authors who left behind extensive writings in the travel genre (H.C. Andersen, Fredrika Bremer, and Knut Hamsun are just a few of the more prominent examples), Ibsen left to others the task of reading the effects of his personal mobility indirectly through his dramatic and poetic works.
The combination of map and timeline presented here is a visualization of the relationship between travel, place of composition, and place of publication for each of Ibsen’s twenty-six plays. The information presented here has been collated from the prose descriptions of Ibsen’s movements that can be found in the standard Ibsen biographies and was then combined with geo-coordinates for the mentioned locations taken from Google Earth. Since the specificity of information about his movements varies, the conversion from the various prose information sources to a GPS mapping interface involves in some cases an inescapable overspecification. (For instance, a town mentioned in the biographies as a summer residence without an address has been converted into coordinates for the center of the town square, and the trajectories mapped as straight lines are simply to be read as connectors between known locations and not actual travel routes.)
The map and timeline are interactive, allowing the user to set parameters that focus and reframe the available information. In the window on the upper right, a single click will shift the frame from Itinerary to Places to Plays.
In the “Itinerary” view, the entire overview of Ibsen’s movements is provided on the map to the left. The colored fields along the bottom show the places, playwriting, and publishing relevant to that part of the itinerary.
In the “Places” view, a single click on a place-name will refocus the map to highlight that place, while a double-click will open a second window tab to highlight the activity associated with that place.
In the “Plays” view, a double-click on a title will open a window revealing the information for that play alone.
The timeline slider on the bottom can be delimited to provide only the information associated with the years chosen (this will be applied to any of the three window views “Itinerary,” “Places,” or “Plays” until the slider is returned to the original limits, so if something seems to be missing, check the slider settings).
(Credit: UCB graduate students Simon Helton and Verena Hoefig assisted Mark Sandberg in the preparation of the databases used to prepare these maps and timelines, and UCLA student Peter Broadwell prepared the interface.)