This project is funded by an Australian Research Council Future Fellowship, from 2018 to 2022.
Literary scholars are challenged to explain the value of reading, researching and teaching literature, particularly in institutional and policy contexts where vocational skills and economic outcomes are emphasised. At the same time, literature remains a powerful and significant cultural form, and new media sites for its discussion are exploding. Given the apparently widening gap between the academic study of literary texts and popular forms of reading, scholars of literature must find ways both to study this gap and to close it.
The ARC Future Fellowship, “Reading at the Interface: Literatures, Cultures, Technologies” (2018-2022), will investigate and deploy new media technologies and cultures to create zones of interaction – interfaces – for Australian literary studies with discussions of literature in diverse public and scholarly sites. I will build these conceptual interfaces on a practical and technical interface: a digital platform, for scholarly and general use, that enables new engagements with Australian literature based on extensive digital evidence of its popular and critical reception. By generating new conceptual and technical zones of exchange,“Reading at the Interface” will reinvigorate Australian literary studies to benefit readers, scholarly and general, while responding effectively to policy demands to demonstrate impact and accountability.
This project will progress – in theoretical, empirical and practical ways – a central insight of cultural criticism: that meaning is not carried by texts but produced in interactions between texts, contexts and readers. This ambitious agenda is made possible by massively expanded digital evidence of reception. Online repositories of book reviews and essays in scholarly and general interest periodicals provide extensive evidence of academic and professional reception, while social media platforms GoodReads (2006–) and LibraryThing (2005–) present millions of often highly detailed and reflective reviews from general readers across hundreds of thousands of titles. ‘Reading at the Interface’ will explore the intersection of this vast new digital archive of reception with (the body of works scholars call) ‘Australian literature.