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Mass-digitisation and textual studies; an Australian case study

Mass-digitisation and textual studies; an Australian case study

Tuesday May 1, 11:00AM, CTSDH Loyola Hall 3rd Floor

In the nineteenth century, newspapers were the main publishers of fiction in Australia; in the twenty-first century, the National Library of Australia’s Trove database represents the largest collection of mass-digitized historical newspapers internationally. These conditions present an opportunity to explore the capacity of mass-digitized collections to transform how we approach and understand literary history. Analysing Trove uncovered over 21,000 novels, novellas and short stories published in Australian newspapers between 1865 and 1914. This fiction encompasses canonical works alongside many hundreds of previously unrecorded titles, and represents titles from around the world, with extensive publication of British, Australian, and American stories, significant amounts of French and German literature in translation, as well as fiction from as far afield as Austria, Canada, Holland, Japan, South Africa, Sweden, Russia, and beyond.

This expanded literary record provides a basis to demonstrate the capacity of digital humanities research to enable new understandings of past literary cultures, at the same time as it highlights the necessity of new strategies and structures to ensure the legibility and sustainability of these discoveries and the research agendas they enable into the future. In the first part of this paper I overview the methods I have used to discover and describe this fiction as well as some of the substantive new insights into literature in Australia and Australian literature it makes possible. In the process I describe how I have used digital methods in ways that sustain relationships between textual and material forms, and computational and historical practices. The second part of the paper argues for the essential role of textual studies in literary history conducted with mass-digitised collections, including how the framework of the scholarly edition can assist in theorising and employing such collections into the future.

All are welcome to the CTSDH on Tuesday, May 1 at 11:00AM at the CTSDH (Loyola Hall 3rd Floor) for this exciting talk! We hope to see you there.

Brief biography

Katherine Bode is Associate Professor of Literary and Textual Studies in the School of Literature, Languages and Linguistics at the Australian National University in Canberra. She has published extensively in literary studies, digital humanities and book history, and her latest monograph, A World of Fiction: Digital Collections and the Future of Literary History, is forthcoming with University of Michigan Press in July 2018.