An approach to digital humanities

“Mapping Paris” is a historical and literary research project that investigates, through data analysis, the relationships of meaning between cultural events and geographical space in nineteenth-century Paris. This project facilitates the sharing of open data for the historical, sociological and literary investigation of Paris and opens up to the collaboration of those who want to contribute to research.


Projects work 1

Mapping the “vie littéraire” of Goncourt brothers in Paris during the Second Empire

Projects work 2

The revenues of Parisian playhouses in the theatrical life of the Second Empire (1858-1867)

Projects work 3

Paris in the French Bildungsroman: Stendhal, Balzac, Flaubert

Projects work 4

Paris from Stendhal to Maupassant

The graphic rendering of the data

Mapping the “vie littéraire” of Goncourt brothers
in Paris during the Second Empire



Map of all places frequented or mentioned by the Goncourts

The data repository is available on GitHub

Tool: Palladio Stanford


Paris Second Empire
General outline
The Goncourt brothers (Edmond and Jules) were prolific writers of the second half of the nineteenth century and leading figures in French literature. Authors of ‘realist’ novels, such as Germinie Lacerteux, they are particularly renowned for the broad cross-section of Parisian literary life portrayed in the pages of their diary (Journal des Goncourt), which relates events, discussions and vignettes of Parisian cultural life.

Any study of French literature of the second half of the nineteenth century would be unthinkable without an awareness of the Goncourts’ Journal: the genesis and background of literary masterpieces emerge from its pages, which the two brothers added to almost daily, reporting discussions in literary cafés, debates in circles and conversations in the capital’s worldly salons.

The aim of this essay is to map the Parisian cultural life of the Second Empire (1851-1870), which coincides with the literary life of Goncourt brothers (Jules de Goncourt would indeed die on 20 June 1870). Restaurants, cafés, theatres, ballrooms and salons constitute the places of ‘sociability’ of the two writers and indeed of all writers and artists of the time. Their diary, the Journal, recounts the details, anecdotes and landscapes of Paris that, in the words of Baudelaire, created the very idea of modernity.

The following questions, to be answered at the end of this paper, have guided the emphasis of this research:

  • Is there a meaningful link between certain places and events of cultural importance in the artistic life of the Second Empire?
  • Is it always possible to define the boundaries of ‘bourgeois society’ in contrast to the places of artists, of the proponents of ‘l’art pour l’art’ and of the ‘vie bohème’?
  • Which places in Paris are most frequently referred to in the works of the Goncourts, and what significance can we derive from this?

With the data obtained and modelled through a reading of the Journal we are in a position to answer these questions and display with precision the temporal and spatial ‘occurrences’ of the Goncourts’ frequentations with writers such as Flaubert, Sainte-Beuve, Murger, Champfleury, Saint-Victor and Gautier; and artists such as Gavarni and Courbet.


Michele Sollecito, Mapping the “vie littéraire” of Goncourt brothers in Paris during the Second Empire. An approach to digital humanities, Palermo, 40due edizioni, 2019.

Michele Sollecito, Roberta De Felici
(ed.), Edmond et Jules de Goncourt,
Théâtre, Paris, Classiques Garnier, 2021


Michele Sollecito

Michele Sollecito is a researcher in French literature at the University of Bari “Aldo Moro”.

He studied dramatic criticism in nineteenth-century France, with a particular focus on the theatrical works of the Goncourt brothers (Paris, Classiques Garnier 2021). He holds a master’s in Digital Humanities from the University of Venice “Ca’ Foscari”.

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