DH Team: Harvey Quamen, Matt Bouchard
Developer: Lucio Gutierrez Gutierrez

Let Canadian modernist writer Sheila Watson guide you on walks through Paris of the mid1950s, her words and sketches bringing the past and the city to life.

WatsonWalk is a literary geolocation app developed by the Editing Modernism in Canada research group at the University of Alberta. The application uses journals, sketchbooks and manuscripts from Sheila Watson’s year in Paris with her husband, Wilfred, to explore the life and art of one of Canada’s most celebrated and beloved writers. Part study companion and part city guide, WatsonWalk is, above all, an invitation to wander the streets of Paris either in person or from the comfort of your own home.

Readers know Sheila Watson as the reclusive author of The Double Hook (1959). That groundbreaking novel inspired a new generation of writers and foreshadowed the flowering of contemporary Canadian literature. Using period photographs and documents, WatsonWalk takes you back to Paris in the fifties, to the Watsons’ apartment at 28 Rue Vignon, and to a formative period in her development as a writer. Here, for the first time, you can enter the mind and heart of the writer herself as she goes to mass at La Madeleine, attends the funeral of French painter Maurice Utrillo, views an exhibition of modernist painting, lingers over coffee at a sidewalk café or sketches life in the Paris streets. Although the app focuses on Sheila Watson’s journals and sketchbooks, it offers insights not only into the genesis of her most important work but into Paris itself as it transitions from postwar reconstruction to the cultural and political ferment of the sixties.

WatsonWalk is a free app for iOS and Android created by the EMiC UA team and our developer, Lucio Gutierrez Gutierrez. WatsonWalk runs in either online or offline modes (so international users don’t need an expensive data plan). The app enables users to navigate the streets of Paris using any one of three different maps, including one from the 1950s. One feature enables users to tweet directly from the app. New literary content for the app will be in continual development.

Maps courtesy of the University of Toronto, OpenStreetMaps and its contributors.