“To Be Continued”: Exploring a World of Fiction in Colonial Periodicals
This project is funded by an ARC Discovery Grant (2013-15). It employs digital humanities methods (including data- and text-mining, topic modelling and network analysis), as well as established bibliographical, book historical and literary critical approaches to identify and analyse fiction in nineteenth-century Australian newspapers.
As was the case in Britain, America and elsewhere, Australian newspapers of this period contained a great deal of fiction. Indeed, due to their cheap price and availability – combined with the low levels of book ownership and of access to lending libraries in Australia at this time – newspapers were the major source of fiction for early Australian readers. Despite the importance of these publications, the size of the newspaper archive has meant that we know very little about this fiction, including what titles, authors, genres and themes were published, and their production, circulation and reception.
This situation has now changed profoundly with the National Library of Australia’s Trove database, which has digitised more than 21 million pages from approximately 800 Australian newspapers published from 1803 to 1955. Using automatic search and harvesting methods, this project is building a bibliographic index and full-text archive of fiction in Australian newspapers, including local and overseas titles. Analysing this record will significantly enhance our understanding of colonial and early Australian literary culture and society, particularly its relationship to the world.
For more details about the project see the following publications and presentations/conference papers:
- Bode, Katherine.‘Fictional Systems: Mass-Digitisation, Network Analysis, and Nineteenth-Century Australian Newspapers.’ Forthcoming in Victorian Periodicals Review (Spring) [draft; Appendix 1; Appendix 2; data]
- Bode, Katherine.‘The Equivalence of “Close” and “Distant” Reading; Or, Toward a New Object for Data-Rich Literary History.’ Forthcoming in Modern Language Quarterly 78.1 (2017) [draft; preprint]
- Bode, Katherine. ‘Thousands of Titles Without Authors: Digitized Newspapers, Serial Fiction, and the Challenges of Anonymity,’ Book History 18 (2016): 284-316. [preprint; datasets all data, known authors, inscribed authors]
- Bode, Katherine and Carol Hetherington. ‘Retrieving a World of Fiction: Building an Index, and Full-text Archive, of Serialised Novels in Australian Newspapers’, Script & Print 38.4 (2014): 197-211. [here]
- * Bode, Katherine. ‘Digital Humanities and Digitised Newspapers: The Australian Story’. Digital Scholarship Group seminar. Northeastern University, Boston. 30 September, 2014. (Transcript and Slides)
- * Bode, Katherine. ‘New Literary Histories: The Digitisation of Print Culture and Transformation of the Archive’. English Department Seminar Series. King’s College London. 16 June, 2014. (Transcript and Slides)
- * Bode, Katherine. ‘Mining a “Trove”: Modeling a Transnational Literary Culture.’ Digital Humanities 2014. University of Laussane, Laussane. 7-12 July 2014. (Transcript and Slides)
- * Bode, Katherine and Carol Hetherington. ‘A World of Stories in Colonial Periodicals.’ Country. Association for the Study of Australian Literature (ASAL) Annual Conference. Charles Sturt University, Wagga Wagga. 3–5 July 2013. (Transcript and Slides)*
* I don’t read papers aloud when I give a presentation, but I do write a full script to organise my thoughts. What I’ve included here are those full scripts (which would usually take twice the time to read aloud as I’m allocated to speak!). The actual presentations missed some of what is included in these transcripts, while including other things that occurred to me at the time.
This project was part of “Resourceful Reading”, a large ARC Discovery Grant involving distinct but interlinked projects by myself, and Professors Leigh Dale, Robert Dixon and Gillian Whitlock. My project, which was later developed and published as Reading by Numbers, extracted and modelled data from AustLit to explore Australian literary and publishing history from a quantitative perspective. This approach provides opportunities to ask simple but broad questions about Australian literature, such as:
- How has the publication of Australian novels changed over time?
- Do any trends in the gender of Australian authors emerge?
- Do trends in Australian literature correspond to those in other national literatures?
Such questions have been asked and answered in the past, but predominantly on the basis of close readings of individual texts rather than data.
In many cases, quantitative results reveal hitherto unrecognised trends in, and challenge key assumptions made about, Australian literary history. The range of issues examined was broad, and included trends and cycles in the gender of novelists; the formation of fictional genres and literary canons; publishing industry dynamics and shifts; the relationship between publication of different fictional forms, such as novels and poetry; the interactions between literary production and criticism; and the relationship between national dynamics and transnational movements and trends.
Links to more information on: