Art History



Degree Name

Master of Arts in Art History (M.A.)

Type of Paper/Work

Qualifying paper


William L. Barnes

Second Advisor

Heather M. Shirey

Third Advisor

Elizabeth Kindall


Cartographic scholar Denis Wood using Barthean semiotics, argues that all cartography is a tool used in a political process. Wood created two classifications of structural analysis for the elements of cartography to identify the true reason and purpose of the cartographic image.

The first classification is the intrasignification class whose codes are those which the
map exploits. These codes operate within the map at the level of language, usually
through its representations, and iconography. Wood’s second classification is the
extrasignification class. These codes operate outside the map, by virtue of the
exploitation of the map; by getting the map to work to further the goals of its author or
patron. These classes create what is known as critical cartography.

The following is an application of critical cartographic analysis to these three images of the unique colonial situation in Mexico. I will apply the various codes created by Wood, with a focus on the codes of the intrasignification elements of these cartographic images and the overall extrasignificational use of the cartographic images by the patron/owner of the image in the struggle for power in early colonial Tenochtitlan/Mexico City.

Creative Commons License

Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License.