Associate Professor Katherine Bode‘Large, Vigorous and Thriving’: Legacies and Futures of Australian Publishing
This lecture sits at the intersection of two forms of publishing: one endemic to the nineteenth century, the other to the twenty-first. It explores the newspapers that were the main publishers of fiction in the Australian colonies using the largest mass-digitised collection of historical newspapers internationally, the National Library of Australia’s Trove database. The almost 17,000 works of fiction discovered in this analysis support a new genealogy of fiction publishing in Australia: where its origins and defining features lie not in the growth in independent local publishing in the 1970s, or even in George Robertson’s activities in the nineteenth century, but in a “large, vigorous and thriving” colonial press.
Newsprint might seem a world away from contemporary Australian publishing, whether in its multinational, small independent, or self-published forms. To the contrary, I show that Australian fiction publishing has from its origins been extensive and active, enmeshed in globalised cultural and economic networks, and distinctively local, adaptive and independent. As well as offering new insights into the history of Australian publishing, the approach underpinning this paper (large-scale mining of the mass-digitised archive) presents opportunities to reflect on the future of publishing studies and on the contemporary fiction publishing that can occur at the intersection of nineteenth and twenty-first century media.
Katherine Bode is associate professor of literary and textual studies at the Australian National University. Her recent publications include Reading by Numbers (2012) and the coedited collection Advancing Digital Humanities (2014). Her latest book is called A World of Fiction, and is due out in 2018 with Michigan University Press.