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Our Next Seminar
The Writing & Society Research Centre at Western Sydney University warmly invites you to
a special panel presentation on Digital Literary Studies
with Professor Simon Burrows, Dr Jason Ensor & Dr Anne Jamison
Friday 15 April
Building 3.G.55, Bankstown Campus, UWS
Simon Burrows: Mapping the Literary Field of Old Regime France and Europe
In 2006 Simon Burrows set out on a quest to map the distribution of books across Europe in the period 1769-1794 by the iconic Swiss publisher-wholesaler, the Société typographique de Neuchâtel. Assured by previous scholarship that the STN's trade was broadly representative of the wider trade in French books, the project promised to map the literary field of enlightenment Europe, and hence the dissemination of the ideas those books contained.
However, it soon became clear that the premise on which the assumption of representativeness were based were flawed. The STN were dealing in predominantly Swiss books, two-thirds of which they published themselves, and had other biases in their trade. They handled little science, avoided publishing the scandalous or atheist fare about which so much has been written, and their trade in religious works was almost entirely limited to Protestant works.
Thus in order to analyse their trade, it proved necessary to develop novel digital tools that might compensate for data-biases, and gather substantial new datasets. As a result, the project team has been gathering further data on an almost industrial scale, and will continue to do so for the lifetime of their current ARC grant. By the time they finish they hope to have gathered information on all major sectors of the book trade, and thus be able to shed challenging new light on the major sectors of the trade in French language books in France and among Europe's francophone elites. They will be equally able to map the pirate, clandestine and licenced sectors; the religious, scientific and the literary. The findings are already beginning to rewrite everything we thought we knew about the French enlightenment, and hence justify taking a bibliometric or distant reading approach to the production, dissemination and consumption of literature under the old regime. This presentation will discuss the sources, approaches and methods used in this research, and briefly comment on how they dovetail with, and contain deep promise for, research in Australian book history.
Jason Ensor's research has traced the history of the book in Australia, particularly the production and business context that mediated Australia's literary and cultural ties to Britain for much of the twentieth century. His recent book focused on the London operations of one of Australia's premier book publishers and retailers in the twentieth century, Angus & Robertson. It examined the ways in which Angus & Robertson attempted to get inside the United Kingdom market, both as a means of acquiring British titles as well as selling Australian books overseas. This represented a distinctive chapter in the history of Australian book publishing, animated by a tension between an aspirational literary nationalism and the more mundane requirements of turning a profit. This research used a mixed-methods approach that combined an interpretative history of primary resource materials with the analysis of bibliometric data. Although it required traditional archival-based research in the restricted Angus & Robertson collection at the State Library of New South Wales, the volume of materials discovered was too great for administrating in the conventional manner of a filing cabinet. Instead, with permission from the relevant rights-holders, Dr Ensor digitized over 18,000 documents (memos, author and publisher correspondence, contracts and financial statements) for research. These documents were then imported into a self-developed research management system and each digital item was tagged with archival source identifiers, descriptive information, date data and thematic terms associated with the research topic. While collecting and tagging these materials was time consuming, this approach proved extremely effective in adding layers of discoverability (the collection could be searched according to subject, authors and recipients of documents, organisations, archival volume and by date) and in organising thousands of documents during the writing phase. Dr Ensor also used data mining and digital visualization to aid the discovery of new knowledge. This approach was made possible by recent advances in online bibliographic databases, particularly 'AustLit: The Australian Literary Resource'. Bringing geographical modes of thinking and analysis to bear on AustLit's records, Dr Ensor analysed a dataset of 18,954 reprints and 21,247 first editions with respect to 2,278 publishers of Australian fiction in book form. This was supplemented with a parallel analysis of Angus & Robertson's complete publication record, visualizing information in the Australian National Bibliographic Database (13,447 records) and the British Library Catalogue (23,407 records) to build an international picture of the publication of Australian novels during the twentieth century between Sydney and London. Dr Ensor will talk about the affordances and challenges of digital Australian Literary Studies and how quantitative and qualitative approaches can go hand in hand.
Anne Jamison: The Mad Women in the Annex: digitizing The Field Day Anthology of Irish Writing
In her review of the eagerly anticipated fourth and fifth volumes of 'The Field Day Anthology of Irish Writing', Anne Fogarty argues that the volumes are 'far less an anthology … than a database'. They are, she writes, 'straining to be a hypertext' and they achieve the near impossible by emulating the 'openness of the archive' in traditional book-bound form. These comments now seem prescient in the light of the current collaboration between JSTOR and Field Day to digitize all five volumes of the anthology (1991-2002) and make these volumes available and searchable within the existing online JSTOR hub. Focusing on volumes four and five - 'women's writing and traditions' - this paper will consider the impact of this digital transformation on our understanding of Irish women's literary history and, in particular, historic and current debates over the ideologies of national canon-formation in Ireland. This research argues that such transformations have the potential to significantly intervene in, and move forward, the objectives of Irish feminist historiographers and their attempts to disrupt the conventional linear alignment of Irish women's history and literature. In doing so, new discourses are potentially opened up for thinking about digital technologies and their increasingly meaningful relationship with feminist, gender, and women's studies within the humanities.
Simon Burrows took up a professorship in History and Political Thought at Western Sydney in January 2013 after 13 years as lecturer, senior lecturer and finally professor at the University of Leeds. The author or co-editor of six books and numerous articles primarily on print culture, media, propaganda, public sphere and political culture in Britain and francophone Europe in the second half of the long eighteenth century. He is best known, however, for his innovative work as head of the French book trade in Enlightenment Europe (FBTEE) database project, begun in Leeds in 2007 with British AHRC funding, and now housed at Western Sydney, where it has received generous further funding from the university and more recently the ARC.
Dr Jason Ensor is currently the Research & Technical Development Manager, at Digital Humanities, for the School of Humanities and Communication Arts at Western Sydney University, where he provides vital research management and technical expertise as well as enabling, developing and coordinating Digital Humanities projects. Jason Ensor is Director of Electronic Resources for the international Society for the History of Authorship, Reading and Publishing (SHARP) and is a founding Editorial Board member for The Anthem Book History and Print Culture Series (UK). He is a Chief Investigator (CI-3) with Simon Burrows (CI-1) on the 'Mapping Print, Charting Enlightenment' Australian Research Council (ARC) Discovery Project and regularly contributes to The Conversation on matters related to research impact and rethinking scholarship in the digital age.
Dr Anne Jamison is a feminist literary and cultural critic with a research focus on eighteenth- and nineteenth-century British, Irish, and more recently, Australian women's writing. She is Lecturer in Literary Studies at WSU and a member of the Digital Humanities Research Group, as well as the Writing and Society Research Centre. She is also the State Library of NSW's Nancy Keesing Fellow for 2016 and is currently collaborating with the State Library and the Sydney Review of Books on a research project which seeks to reassess the significance and legacy of nineteenth-century Australian women's writing, as well as consider that writing within a broader international colonial context.
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