Uncovering the True History of Australian Literature

Newspapers were the main sources of fiction, international and local, in Australia in the nineteenth century. But the lack of records of this fiction and the enormous size of the newspaper archive have left us with very little understanding of the types of stories published, where they came from and how they were sourced and presented. The mass digitization of historical newspapers changes this situation dramatically. The millions of digital newspaper pages available through the National Library of Australia's Trove database support an entirely new history of literature in Australia and Australian literature.

Alongside previously unknown colonial authors and titles by well-known writers, this new history includes the surprisingly international nature of reading in the Australian colonies, the astonishing scale of nineteenth-century local literary production, the previously unrecognized importance of provincial newspapers in publishing and promoting such fiction, and a radically new version of the Australian bush tradition. The digital environment also presents opportunities for members of the public to add to and enhance our record of Australian literature, and perhaps even to make new discoveries that transform understandings of our literary heritage.

Associate Professor Katherine Bode teaches Australian and digital literary studies in the School of Literature, Languages and Linguistics at the Australian National University. She has published extensively on Australian literature and digital collections, including in a forthcoming book with University of Michigan Press entitled A World of Fiction: Digital Collections and the Future of Literary History. In 2018 she will begin a prestigious Future Fellowship to investigate professional and social media reception of Australian literature.

There will be pre-event book signings of How I Pawned My Opals and Other Lost Stories from 5.30pm then again after the lecture when refreshments will be served. Books will be available for purchase.