Reading at the Interface
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 meet these challenges by redirecting the focus and methodologies of Australian literary studies towards reception. By deploying and investigating new media technologies and cultures, it will 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, the Future Fellowship will reinvigorate Australian literary studies to benefit readers, scholarly and general, while responding effectively to policy demands to demonstrate impact and accountability.
Aims and Background
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. Its ambitious agenda is now 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.’
Specific scholarly aims
In literary and reading studies
- understand existing and emerging dynamics in contemporary reading culture and in the reception of Australian literature, including as they relate to new media forms and cultures
- identify works of Australian literature for interpretation and frameworks for analysis that respond to the diverse meanings generated by reception, including those that contest or exceed academic categories and national boundaries
In digital humanities
- theorise digital humanities methods using the conceptual framework of the interface to shift discussion from objects of representation to effects of interaction
- explore how emerging digital technologies can enhance literary and reading research, and how critical perspectives on and from these fields can optimise scholarly use of technology
Broader disciplinary and social aims
- enact and encourage meaningful academic interventions in public debate about literature that are based on understanding how Australian literature is constituted by the reading public and
- experiment with new modes of public engagement with Australian literature and its scholarship
The project will create an interactive digital platform for readers (scholarly and general) to explore and respond to reception data derived from and linked to articles and reviews in academic, professional, and social media sites. This digital platform will provide:
- a major resource to support new forms of scholarship and pedagogy in Australian literary and reading studies;
- an innovative research tool for exploring and theorising human and computational modes of reading and their intersection;
- an essential part of the project’s data management and publishing strategy; and
- an experimental research environment for generating new forms of engagement with, and readers for, Australian literature and its criticism.