This project was funded by an Australian Research Council Discovery Grant, from 2013 to 2016.
As was the case in Britain, America and elsewhere, 19th-century Australian newspapers 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.
The National Library of Australia’s Trove database changes this situation profoundly. In offering the largest mass-digitised collection of historical newspapers in the world, Trove makes it possible to search for fiction in Australian newspapers for the first time in a reliable and systematic ways. This project employed 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 over 21,000 novels, novellas and short stories in 19th- and early 20th-century Australian newspapers.
The project’s main outcomes include:
To be continued . . . The Australian Newspaper Fiction Database
This database represents extensive bibliographical details and text files for the fiction discovered in digitised historical Australian newspapers. You can use the database to:
- Explore: search for fiction by author, title, newspaper, keyword, nationality or more to discover fiction
- Correct: access Trove to read and correct story text or edit the database
- Add: identify and add new instalments and stories you find in the digitised newspapers
- Export: download a story you have corrected or generate textual and bibliographical data for research
A World of Fiction: Digital Collections and the Future of Literary History
This monograph is the main scholarly output of the project and was published by the University of Michigan Press in July 2018. The book is in two main parts. The first offers a new framework for data-rich literary history based on the theory and technology of the scholarly edition. The second applies this framework to analysing almost 10,000 works of fiction published in Australian newspapers in the 19th century in ways that re-conceptualise how fiction traveled globally, and was received and understood locally, in this period. You can access more information about this book including preprints of the introduction and first two chapters, here.
“To be continued . . .” series, with Orbiter Press
I am currently working with Orbiter Press to publish some of the newly discovered Australian fiction in digitised newspapers. The first edited collection, “How I Pawned My Opals” and Other Lost Stories publishes five previously lost stories by important Australian author, feminist, socialist and world-traveller, Catherine Martin. Forthcoming editions include a collection of original Australian Christmas stories and another of Australian mining fiction.
For other publications and presentations from this project see:
- ‘Uncovering the True History of Australian Literature,’ Public lecture at the Australian National University 1 March 2018. [listen here]
- ‘Fictional Systems: Mass-Digitisation, Network Analysis, and Nineteenth-Century Australian Newspapers,’ Victorian Periodicals Review 50.1: 100-38. [website; preprint; data/figures; appendix 1; appendix 2; appendix 3 – draft]
- ‘The Equivalence of “Close” and “Distant” Reading; Or, Toward a New Object for Data-Rich Literary History.’ Modern Language Quarterly 78.1 (2017) [draft; preprint]
- ‘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]
- with 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]
- * ‘Digital Humanities and Digitised Newspapers: The Australian Story’. Digital Scholarship Group seminar. Northeastern University, Boston. 30 September, 2014. (Transcript and Slides)
- * ‘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)
- * ‘Mining a “Trove”: Modeling a Transnational Literary Culture.’ Digital Humanities 2014. University of Laussane, Laussane. 7-12 July 2014. (Transcript and Slides)
- * with Carol Hetherington. ‘A World of Stories in Colonial Periodicals.’ 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.