A landmark special section on ‘Book Reviewing in Australia’, edited by Melinda Harvey (Director of the Centre for the Book) and Patrick Allington (Flinders), has just been published in Australian Humanities Review, Issue 60.
The special section is an outcome of the Critical Matters symposium held in Melbourne in April 2015.
The Centre for the Book, Monash University, in collaboration with the Centre for the Book, University of Otago and The State Library of Victoria, are hosting:
Marginal Notes: Social Reading and the Literal Margins. A One-Day Conference & Masterclass
Prof. Bill Sherman, Director of Research and Collections, Victoria & Albert Museum, London
Prof. Pat Buckridge, Griffith University, Nathan, Queensland
Conference date: Friday 23 September.
Venue: State Library of Victoria, Melbourne
There are margins to both traditional print- and paper-based texts as well as virtual texts. Whatever text they surround, encompass, define or limit, margins are the spaces in which ideas are contested and debated. Historically, readers have used the physical margin as a space in which to respond to the voice of the author, and to communicate with other readers. As it has become increasingly easy to add marginal notes to virtual texts, and for readers to share their electronic marginalia with each other, scholars are able to scrutinise marginalia in new ways and to reconstruct social reading practices on an unprecedented scale. While contemporary and historical annotation practices have much in common, and there is much to be learned about historical practices from studies of contemporary marginalia, historical practices raise unique and challenging interpretative issues of their own. And, although a range of recent studies have increased our knowledge concerning the distribution and availability of books, the identity and diversity of readers and annotators, the spread and even the nature of literacy in the early modern and modern periods, there remain significant challenges for scholars encountering marginalia.
This conference will investigate marginalia in texts from the early modern period to the present, with a particular focus on the interpretative challenges posed by marginalia in the literal margin—whether encountered directly, via digital surrogate or in mediated form.
Topics may include:
Studies of historical marginalia and annotation
Theoretical models and methodological protocols for conceptualising marginalia
The reproduction of marginalia in virtual environments
The location and use of marginalia via digital surrogate
Studies of virtual marginalia that shed light on historical practices
Changing or limiting contemporary reader practices in virtual environments
Marginal notations as “signs of engagement”
The nature and interpretative challenges of pictures, doodles, stains and traces etc.
Interpretative issues posed by anonymous vs. celebrity marginalia
Particular annotators, or particular annotated texts
Marginalia as literary work
Commentary as writing, writing as commentary
Marginalia as (auto)biographical record or life writing
Annotation in combination with inter-leaving and grangerising
It is anticipated that the papers from the conference will form the basis of an edited collection to be published by a quality academic press.
Length of papers
Papers will be twenty minutes each (with ten minutes for Q&A).
Please send abstracts of 250–300 words to the convenors by 15 June:
To allow for delegates to make their travel plans and/or apply for funding in a timely fashion, proposals will be considered and confirmations issued as they come in.
Masterclass: Prof. Bill Sherman will conduct a masterclass at the State Library of Victoria, using items from the Rare Books Collection to demonstrate some of the interpretative challenges that annotated material presents to scholars and librarians. Seating is limited. For further details, or to book a seat, please contact Dr. Patrick Spedding (Monash University): Patrick.Spedding@monash.edu.
Earlier this year, Oscar Schwartz presented a TEDx talk on his PhD research exploring the impact of computer-generated poetry on our understanding of poetry and what it means to be human. You can see Oscar’s talk here.
You can test your skills detecting human and computer poetry at Oscar’s bot or not website.
This issue of AHR directs its attention to literary criticism in the public sphere in Australia today. We seek essays that focus on the state of current critical thinking and writing, but also essays that consider the conditions within which that critical thinking and writing takes place.
Some questions we are keen to see addressed include (but is not limited to) the following:
Is public book criticism really in crisis, as the pundits say? If so, what are the contributing factors to that crisis? If not, why do crisis narratives persist?
Are recent quantitative studies of our book reviewing scene – such as the Stella Count – useful? Are they changing it for the better?
What makes good criticism? Do such things as personal reflection, opinion and affect have a place in criticism? Does our critical language have blindspots or limits?
What is the relationship between academic literary scholarship and book reviewing? Is the divide between them real or artificial? What can the former learn from the latter, and vice versa?
How is the perceived decline of newspapers and the rise of online formats changing the way we do criticism? Should we be optimistic about book criticism’s future?
300 word abstracts due 31 July 2015
Essays of not more than 8000 words due 31 March 2016
Patrick Allington firstname.lastname@example.org
Melinda Harvey email@example.com
AHR aims to present new and challenging debates in the humanities to both an academic and a non-academic readership. All essays published in AHR are blind refereed by two academic reviewers. For more information about AHR go to:
This one-day symposium brings together leading scholars from Australia, the UK and Canada to consider current and future ways of researching how readers engage with memoir. Examining memoir through the lens of reader research, print culture research, literary criticism and life writing studies, the symposium considers how readers use memoir, what current trends in memoir publishing tell us about the social and political work of life writing, and the challenges associated with seeking to understand how memoir circulates and is read.
Speakers include: Professor Julie Rak (Alberta), Dr Danielle Fuller (Birmingham) and Professor DeNel Rehberg Sedo (Mount Saint Vincent), Dr Beth Driscoll (Melbourne), Associate Professor Kate Douglas (Flinders), and Dr Melinda Harvey (Monash).
To register your interest in attending, please email Anna Poletti (Anna.Poletti@monash.edu) by Friday 10 April.
The two public panels are themed ‘How Should a Critic Be?’ and ‘Making Criticism Matter’ and feature Geordie Williamson, Kerryn Goldsworthy, James Ley, Peter Craven, James Bradley, Delia Falconer, Maria Tumarkin, Peter Rose, Felicity Plunkett, Mireille Juchau, Jo Case and Melinda Harvey.
I completed my PhD in the Centre for the Book in 2016. My doctorate was supervised by Dr Simone Murray and Prof Robin Gerster. My doctoral thesis, Audience in the Spotlight: Investigating Literary Festival Engagement, studies audience experience at literary festivals, and the relationships between literary festivals and the communities in which they are embedded. This research forms part of Dr Murray’s Australian Research Council Discovery project Performing Authorship in the Digital Literary Sphere.
I completed a Bachelor of Arts with First Class Honours at the University of Canberra in 2012. My Honours project, Preserving Manuscript Content in the Digital Age, combined heritage and archival principles with compositional manuscript studies to explore the implications of digital content creation for future archival research. This research was grounded in my professional experience in the Pictures and Manuscripts and Oral History and Folklore teams at the National Library of Australia.
My primary research interests include:
The sociology of culture
Cultural policy and creative industries
Heritage and archival practices
Peer Reviewed Articles
Murray, S. & M. Weber (2017, upcoming) ‘Live and local: The significance of digital media for writers’ festivals’, Convergence: The International Journal of Research into New Media Technologies 23.1
Weber, M. (2016) ‘Retaining traces of composition in digital manuscript collections: A case for institutional proactivity’, Refractory: a Journal of Entertainment Media 27
Mannion, A. & M. Weber (eds) (2017, upcoming) Publishing: A Solitary and Social Enterprise [provisional title], published by Monash University Publishing, Melbourne
Lam, C., Rafael, J. & M. Weber (eds) (2017, in press) Credibility and the Incredible: Disassembling the Celebrity Figure, published by interdisciplinary.net press, UK
Weber (2016, November) ‘Scandal at the Festival: Literary Festivals as Sites of Field Negotiation’, presented at Independent Publishing Conference, Melbourne
Weber (2016, July) ‘Live and Online Literary Culture: Intersections in Reader Engagement’, presented at Literature and Technology conference, Sydney, annual conference of AAL (Australasian Association for Literature)
Weber, M. (2015, November) ‘The Literary Festival as Economic and Cultural Project: A Creative Industries Perspective’, presented at Independent Publishing Conference, Melbourne
Weber, M. (2015, July) ‘Literary Festivals and the Digital Revolution’, presented at The Generation and Regeneration of Books conference, Montreal, annual conference of SHARP (Society for the History of Authorship, Reading and Publishing)
Weber, M. (2014, September) ‘The Literary Festival as a Cosmopolitan Space’, presented at The View from Above: Cosmopolitan Culture and Its Critics, Melbourne
Weber, M. (2014, July) ‘Encountering the ‘Literary’ Festival: Toward a Conceptual Framework for Audience Experience’, presented at Celebrity and Fandom, Oxford
Weber, M. (2014, June) ‘Retaining Traces of Composition in Digital Manuscript Collections: A Case for Institutional Proactivity’, presented at The Born Digital and Cultural Heritage conference, Melbourne
Also in June, Dr Anna Poletti was interviewed for an article in the Age, leading up to the State Library of Victoria’s zine fair ‘Tonerpalooza’, where she discussed her recent research into zines about suicide.
The Centre for the Book is pleased to announce the publication of a special issue of Australian Humanities Reviewstemming form the ‘Revealing the Reader’ symposium.
The special issue brings together a number of articles stemming from papers delivered at the conference, and covers a wide range of interests in reading research including cultural studies, book history, literary studies, and creative writing. The specie issue is edited by Centre co-directors Anna Poletti and Patrick Spedding, and Rosalind McFarlane.
Special Issue: Revealing the Reader: Table of Contents
Anna Poletti and Patrick Spedding
Introduction: Revealing the Reader
Part 1: Reading Histories
Susan K. Martin
Tracking Reading in Nineteenth-Century Melbourne Diaries
Journeys in Reading in Wartime: Some Australian Soldiers’ Reading Experiences in the First World War
Eliza Haywood’s Eighteenth-Century Readers in Pennsylvania and New York
Eliza Haywood’s Eighteenth-Century Readers: Appendixes
Part 2: Reading Communities
Robert Clarke and Marguerite Nolan
Book Clubs and Reconciliation: A Pilot Study on Book Clubs Reading the ‘Fictions of Reconciliation’
Social Reading: The Kindle’s Social Highlighting Function and Emerging Reading Practices
Danielle Fuller and DeNel Rehberg Sedo
Reproducing ‘the Wow Factor’?: Negotiating the Values of Reading through One Book, One Community Events
Part 3: Reading Futures
The Subject Supposed to Read: the Case against the E-reader
In July, 1995 the American writer Kathy Acker met media theorist McKenzie Wark while on a reading tour of Australia. The two spent a few giddy days and a night together in Sydney. Acker was then 48, Wark was 34. A 17-day email correspondence, by turns languid and frantic, titled i’m very into you, soon to be published in the US by Chiasmus Press, ensued. Through close reading of this correspondence, together with Acker’s 1974 collaboration with Alan Sondheim on Blue Tape, Kraus examines the successes and failures of Acker’s project and its implications for writers and artists today.
Time: 6-7pm, Thursday 3 July
The Sneeze: Oversignification in the Zone of Encounter
Certain key characteristics of avant-garde art reflect the turbulent convergence of Romantic and Realist responses to the implacable, as well as transcendent, power of capital. They are, thus, fundamentally political in origin, but they are aesthetic in manner, producing a praxis of affect as well as (or more than) cognition. By moving back and forth between fragments from 19th century and 21st century activism, it is possible to establish a continuum, wherein activist signifying practices produce aesthetic intensifications of political meaning. This keynote paper begins with discussion of the poetry (“couplets”) improvised by an important but secondary figure in Victor Hugo’s Les Misérables. It proposes that the hypersignification at work in Gavroche’s ditties is a feature of tactical importance, also, in some hip hop lyrics and in some of the poetry connected to the Occupy movement. This hypersignification—or oversignification, as it is might be more aptly termed—is, in the context of capitalism, revolutionary. The second half of the paper examines signifying practices in an ongoing anti-epic poem by Occupy activist Sara Larsen, who uses oversignification to signal a rejection of the conditions wherein commodities and commodity production have any significance at all. The resulting ironies have affinities with those that inform certain African-American expressive practices, whereby stasis (and, by implication, the status quo) become conceptually impossible.
Time: 10.45-11.45am, Friday 4 July
The Swan Book (2013) is a novel set in the future, about one hundred years from now. It focuses on questions that I have asked myself, and which I believe are global questions on the mind of millions of people across the world. These questions are about the security of our common future. The Swan Book tells a story of the Indigenous spirit, the global state of human relationships with each other and our ability to govern a changing world, and the impact of changes in the environment. It is also a story about swans and how we have related to these creatures through the ages. In my deep concerns for the future, which I tried to address in this novel, I am always hopeful that the contents of the book might make a small contribution in important forums, debate and thinking about the possibilities of climate change and a changing world in this millennium.
This plenary will begin with a brief introduction by Associate Professor Alison Ravenscroft, who will then discuss The Swan Book with Alexis Wright. Associate Professor Ravenscroft will also lead the audience Q&A with Alexis Wright to follow the reading.
Time: 5.30-6.30pm, Friday 4 July
The Poetics of Decolonisation
This keynote paper begins by returning to the work of a woman writer who is, and is not, our contemporary: namely, the incredibly prescient Judith Wright, and, in particular to her famous poem, addressed to her friend Kath Walker (later Oodgeroo Nunuccal), “Two Dreamtimes.” Here the speaker, “born of the conquerors” finds common ground with her Aboriginal interlocutor, not only in their shared, if culturally distinct, love for lands given over to destructive forms of exploitation in the interests of commercial gain on the part of a globalized minority, but also in their shared, if racially differentiated, marginality as women writers. Since the early 1970s, when this poem was penned, the position of women in the publishing world has dramatically improved, thanks to the achievements of second-wave feminism: in that sense, quite apart from the fact of her death in the first year of this calamitous new millennium, Wright is no longer our contemporary. As I will argue in this paper, however, some women’s voices are still being marginalized, even though, as in the case of Waanyi author Alexis Wright, their work might be awarded literary prizes. Among such marginalized voices are those of Indigenous women, but also non-Indigenous ecological feminists: and in that sense, Judith Wright’s writing has, if anything, grown in contemporary relevance. My primary concern in this presentation, however, is not with Judith so much as with Alexis Wright (no relative!), whose remarkable prize-winning novel Carpentaria I will be exploring within an anti-colonial ecological feminist frame.
Time: 10.45-11.45am, Saturday 5 July
Deborah Bird Rose
Recuperative Writing for the Anthropocene
I think we all sense that the ways of writing that have awakened an environmental consciousness over the past 50 years or so have reached some sort of limit. I would call this the limit of the Anthropocene, but we might equally call it the limit of optimism. If this sense of limit has validity, then it suggests that however we address the big issues of our time, it is important that we not replicate the past. This is difficult in part because of modernity’s emphasis on not replicating the past, leading paradoxically to the proposition that not replicating the past actually replicates the past. In this keynote paper, I seek to recuperate some of the possibilities that may yet be underexplored. My recuperative project is based on the premise, articulated so elegantly by Hannah Arendt, that even in dark times there will be some illumination. Recuperative writing is not aimed toward dialectical opposition or overcoming; rather it trawls the past and the present, searching out forgotten or suppressed stories, opening itself to others, and finding itself drawn into places of unexpected wonder.
The 5th biennial CWWA conference, ‘Contemporary Women’s Writing and Environments,’ which will be held at the State Library of Victoria 3-5 July 2014, recognises and investigates the importance of environments to women’s writing, and the contribution women’s writing makes to current thinking about environments. Taking an expansive view of ‘environment,’ the conference will unite practitioners and scholars in discussion of the ways in which contemporary women’s writing engages with places, spaces, homes, cities, nature, workplaces, communities, publics, literary spheres and virtual worlds.
The Contemporary Women’s Writing Association was established ‘to act as a forum which promotes and enhances research and the exchange of ideas and information for all who are interested in this dynamic and diverse area of cultural activity.’ Two of the major activities of the Association include the publication of the Oxford Journal Contemporary Women’s Writing, and a biennial International conference. The conference is intended to bring together women writers and scholars in the area of contemporary (1970s onwards) women’s writing to discuss and share ideas, and to promote women’s writing in general.
The conference includes an exciting public program: keynote talks and readings are open to the public.You can purchase a ticket for any keynote talk by clicking on the registration link above. See the times and outlines of their presentations here.
Lyn Hejinian: A founding figure of the Language writing movement in the 1970s, Lyn is one of America’s foremost experimental poets. Her books of poetry include My Life, Writing Is an Aid to Memory, Happily, The Fatalist andThe Book of a Thousand Eyes. She has also published a collection of essays, The Language of Inquiry. She teaches at the University of California, Berkeley.
Chris Kraus: cutting-edge LA-based writer of fiction and art criticism, Chris’ books include I Love Dick, Aliens & Anorexia,Torpor, Summer of Hate and Where Art Belongs. She was awarded the Frank Jewett Mather Award for Art Criticism from the College Art Association in 2008. She also founded the Native Agentsseries for Semiotext(e).
Kate Rigby: Australia’s first Professor of Environmental Humanities (Monash University), founding member of the Australian Ecological Humanities network and founding president of the Australia-New Zealand Association for the Study of Literature and the Environment. Kate is a leading Australian theorist of ecopoetics, and is co-editor of Ecocritical Theory: New European Approaches (U of Virginia P 2011). Deborah Bird Rose: Environmental Humanities Program (University of New South Wales), is a Fellow of the Academy of Social Sciences in Australia, and a founding co-editor of Environmental Humanities. She has worked with Australian Aboriginal people in their claims to land and other decolonising contexts; her current research focuses on multispecies communities in this time of extinctions. Her books include Wild Dog Dreaming: Love and Extinction (2011, University of Virginia Press), the re-released second edition of Country of the Heart: An Indigenous Australian Homeland (2011), the third edition of the prize-winning ethnography Dingo Makes Us Human (2009), Reports from a Wild Country: Ethics for Decolonisation (2004) and Nourishing Terrains:Australian Aboriginal views of Landscape and Wilderness (1996). She the author of the popular blog ‘Life at the Edge of Extinction’(www.deborahbirdrose.com).
Alexis Wright is a member of the Waanyi Nation of the southern highlands of the Gulf of Carpentaria. Her writings include the novels Plains of Promise (UQP),Carpentaria (Giramondo), The Swan Book (Giramondo), and the non-fiction book Grog War (Magabala). Alexis was also the compiler and editor of Take Power (Jukurrpa Books). Her writings have been translated and published in many countries. She is a Distinguished Research Fellow in the Writing and Society Research Group, University of Western Sydney.
Alison Ravenscroft is Associate Professor of English at La Trobe University, Melbourne. Her recent book The Postcolonial Eye (Ashgate 2012) begins from the premise that contemporary Indigenous textuality cannot be wholly known within western modes of thought, and that some of their vital political and aesthetic work lies in their powers to unsettle non-Indigenous readers’ assurance in their own powers to see and to know. She is currently working with a team of Indigenous researchers and designers on a new digital knowledges site, the Centre for Indigenous Story, supported by La Trobe University, which will be launched in late 2014.
The 5th biennial CWWA conference, ‘Contemporary Women’s Writing and Environments’ recognises and investigates the importance of environments to women’s writing, and the contribution women’s writing makes to current thinking about environments. Taking an expansive view of ‘environment’, the conference will unite practitioners and scholars in discussion of the ways in which contemporary women’s writing engages with places, spaces, homes, cities, nature, workplaces, communities, publics, literary spheres and virtual worlds.