Conference Schedule

Our draft schedule with all the scholarly sessions can be found here: Please click on “Schedule” on the left-hand menu.

Plenary sessions

Conference Opening, Words of Welcome

26 Jul 2021, 17:00 CET
Corinna Norrick-Rühl (English Department, conference convener)
Shef Rogers (SHARP President)

Opening Keynote: Mobilizing Texts and the Fight for Black Liberty Life

26 Jul 2021, 17:30 CET
Dr Brenna Greer (Wellesley College)

Black Americans in the United States are in a fight for our lives, to say nothing of freedom. Over the past year, the COVID-19 virus has killed African Americans in disproportionately high numbers and alt-right, white supremacist groups have targeted people and policies that would protect Black and Brown people, and outright attacked those people of color. And, the epidemic of police brutality continues unabated, despite the global outcry following the uniquely callous murder of George Floyd by Minneapolis police last May. How can book historians engage these events? How does the book historian make herself useful in the defense of black lives? Inspired by the double meaning to be found in this year’s conference theme – “moving texts” – this talk centers on how African American mediamakers – professional, amateur, and accidental – have produced and circulated texts that affected, informed, instructed, and united Blacks and non-Blacks in opposition to white supremacy, anti-black violence, and black death. From narratives written by formerly enslaved Blacks to the 8 minute and 41 second video that 17-year-old Darnella Frazier filmed of Floyd’s murder, texts with the power to move people have been historically central to Black struggles for life and liberty. As a historian of race and a Black woman in the United States, I seek understanding of what forms these mobilizing texts have taken, the work necessary to produce, circulate, and consume these texts, and how different constituencies – activists, voters, consumers, lawmakers, and scholars – have received these materials. I view these questions all to be in service of this most pressing question: what texts are most moving – and most damaging – in the 21st century battle for Black life?

Keynote speaker bio
Dr. Brenna Wynn Greer is an Associate Professor of History at Wellesley College. She is a historian of race, gender, and culture in the twentieth century United States, who explores historical connections between capitalism, social movements and visual culture. Her first book, “Represented: The Black Imagemakers Who Reimagined African American Citizenship” (University of Pennsylvania Press), examines the historical circumstances that made the media representation of black citizenship good business in the post-World War II era. A recipient of several teaching awards and major fellowships from the ACLS, Woodrow Wilson Foundation, and Andrew W. Mellon Foundation, Professor Greer’s work has been featured in The New York Times, Nation, Daily Mail, Enterprise & Society, and Columbia Journalism Review.

Singing Textbooks, Living Documents, Digital Stories: Perspectives on Moving Texts and Travelling Tales from the Global South

27 Jul 2021, 19:30 CET
Prof. Archie Dick (University of Pretoria), Chao Tayiana, Danielle Fuller (University of Alberta), Jacinta Beckwith (University of Otago Library), Dr Melanie Ramdarshan Bold (University of Glasgow), Padmini Ray Murray, Stanley Griffin

This plenary will be the follow-up to our successful and groundbreaking Decolonising Book History roundtable at SHARP in Focus in 2020. Our aim for the Decolonising Book History roundtable was to explore book history’s decolonial and decentring possibilities and limits, and to talk practically about methods for creating change. We were delighted with the response but felt that voices from the Global South were missing from the conversation.

This year’s plenary roundtable will therefore feature five scholars from the Global South who variously work on oral, manuscript, print and/or digital cultures in periods ranging from the 18th to the 21st centuries. In terms of format there are two parts to the roundtable: a five-minute pre-recorded presentation from each participant, and a one-hour “live” discussion/Q&A with all participants and conference attendees. The aims of the roundtable are: to showcase scholars from and scholarship about the global South; to encourage engagement with the conference themes of “moving texts” and textual transactions; and to do so within and across various colonial, decolonial and indigenous histories and realities. Each participant has chosen a text, object or artefact that will be the focus of their 5-minute, pre-recorded presentation.

Our five contributors are: Jacinta Beckwith (New Zealand); Archie Dick (South Africa); Stanley Griffin (Jamaica); Padmini Ray Murray (India) and Chao Tayiana (Kenya).

New Research Directions for Book History in Australia

29 Jul 2021, 9:00 CET
Dr Per Henningsgaard (Curtin University), Dr Beth Driscoll (University of Melbourne), Kenna MacTavish (University of Melbourne), Dr Mark Davis (University of Melbourne), Julia Rodwell (Australian National University), Dr Anna Welch (State Library of Victoria)

Some of the most exciting research in any field comes from its emerging scholars. In this plenary, we will hear from three PhD students, as well as the distinguished scholars who supervise them. The topics up for discussion are as diverse as the publishing of genre fiction by authors of colour, the categorisation of books on digital platforms like Instagram and Goodreads, and the development of new digital tools for libraries to host ‘online exhibitions’. All of the panellists are based in Australia, but their research has implications for book historians around the globe.

The Genre Worlds of Twenty-First Century Australian Popular Fiction
The Genre Worlds research project (led by Kim Wilkins, David Carter, Beth Driscoll and Lisa Fletcher) examined twenty-first century Australian crime, romance and fantasy fiction, analysing texts, collecting data and interviewing over 100 writers and industry professionals. A primary interest of the project is new forms of digital publishing and creative practice, an area addressed by Claire Parnell’s doctoral research.

Claire’s research investigates how authors of colour writing romance fiction use digital publishing platforms and how the platforms they use fit within broader systems of production, distribution and reception. It specifically focuses on self-publishing on Amazon and social storytelling on Wattpad, two of the largest publishing platforms as of 2021. Drawing on a similar ecology model to the Genre Worlds project, this research proposes that these platforms exist within an ‘Entertainment Ecosystem’, comprising the broader social media sphere as well as the book publishing and entertainment media industries and therefore analyses their ‘surrounding’ platforms, companies and spaces. It uses a mixed methods digital ethnographic approach, including interviews with authors, website analysis of interfaces and architecture, content analysis of reviews and comments, and a review of grey literature, to map the platforms’ socio-political, techno-cultural and economic aspects. Amazon and Wattpad operate as powerful intermediaries in publishing through their editorial, governance and organisational structures.

Beth, Claire’s supervisor, is a co-author of the forthcoming Genre Worlds monograph (University of Massachusetts Press, 2022). The book’s novel conceptual model proposes a ‘genre world’ as a collection of people and practices that operates according to patterns of collaborative activity, in order to produce the texts that make popular genres recognisable. Examination of the three connected dimensions of genre worlds—the social, the industrial and the textual—illuminates contemporary genre fiction’s relationship to digital technologies, its progressive and conservative tendencies, and its involvement in local and global fan cultures and communities.

New Tastemakers and Australia’s Post-Digital Literary Culture
The ‘New Tastemakers and Australia’s Post-Digital Literary Culture’ project (led by Mark Davis, Beth Driscoll, Sybil Nolan and Emmett Stinson) considers the impact of digital technologies on patterns of tastemaking and cultural mediation.

Kenna MacTavish’s doctoral research revolves around the question of how books are organised in the twenty-first century and examines post-digital bookworlds—worlds that are driven by networked readers across a platformised culture of books and reading. Kenna’s PhD thesis intersects with the ‘New Tastemakers and Australia’s Post-Digital Literary Culture’ project through its identification of interconnected systems of (digital and physical) book categorisation: word-based, image-based, and recommendation-based systems. Examining these three systems reveals the roles of emerging networked tastemakers in processes of categorisation on digital platforms like Instagram and Goodreads, as well as how these platforms creatively intertwine with non-digital architectures such as libraries and bookstores. Kenna’s theoretical framework argues that networked processes of book categorisation are attributed to a sociality of books and reading coded by technology.

Beth (Kenna’s primary PhD supervisor) shares Kenna’s research interests in social reading practices, tastemaking and genre, as well as in the application of creative, post-digital research methodologies. Like Kenna, Mark (Kenna’s co-supervisor) researches networked processes in book culture. His current research focuses on the impact of digital media on public and democratic processes, with a focus on the global book publishing industry and its transition from ‘print capitalism’ to ‘platform capitalism’. In their work on ‘New Tastemakers’, Beth, Mark and their colleagues examine how engagements with digital media and platforms such as ebooks, online forums, blogs and social media have changed the ways in which Australian literature is produced, distributed and consumed, and address the question of what this means for the future of Australian literature and Australia’s book industry in a globalised market for literature.

The Form of the Book in Digital Space: Liminality, Materiality and Meaning
The idea of visiting a physical exhibition is so familiar to us that it’s easy to forget there was a time this experience did not exist, just as there was a time the form of the book did not exist. The physical public exhibition as we know it today is the child of the nineteenth-century international exhibitions, though we can look back to at least the medieval period to find the roots of this desire to display and view beautiful and special books in a public setting, a desire that is at heart an affirmation of physical books’ affective power.

In 2020, the COVID-19 pandemic forced cultural institutions around Australia and the world to close their doors to the public, often for the first time in their history. The year has seen an influx of ‘online exhibitions’ from galleries, museums and libraries, a term for which there remains some hostility within the cultural sector, as it is both under-theorised and broadly applied.

Also in 2020, a team of historians, curators and digital humanities specialists commenced a three-year collaborative project funded by the Australian Research Council entitled Transforming the Early Modern Archive: The John Emmerson Collection at State Library Victoria. Working remotely, the team is developing new digital tools designed to unlock the value of this unique collection for local and international audiences, including through an innovative born-digital exhibition to be launched at State Library Victoria (SLV) in 2023, the methodology for which is the focus of Julia Rodwell’s doctoral research, supervised by A/Prof. Mitchell Whitelaw (ANU), Prof. Rosalind Smith (ANU), and Dr Anna Welch (SLV).

The coincidence of the pandemic and the project’s digital focus has created the perfect opportunity to reflect on the hermeneutics of book exhibitions. To what extent does the artificial environment of the physical exhibitions reappear in virtual exhibitions? What happens to book materiality—and its affective emotional and cognitive impacts—in the digital space? What does this mean for our reading (literal and figurative) of books? Can digital liminality meaningfully accommodate material physicality?

Moving Texts Across the Gap: Independent Booksellers and Underserved Readers

30 Jul 2021, 16:30 CET
Alison Newman, Cary Suneja, Cetonia Weston-Roy, Dr Lee Francis IV

The literary marketplace in the United States does not operate evenly, nor does it grant equal access to representation and reading material to all readers. Instead, the large book distributors who create and supply markets often leave readers of color underserved and underrepresented. In this panel, Dr. Lee Francis IV and Cetonia Weston-Roy, both independent booksellers and advocates for historically underserved populations, will discuss their work creating, producing, and distributing books and comics through their respective businesses, Albuquerque’s Red Planet Books and Comics, and Milwaukee’s Niche Book Bar. In addition, the conversation will focus on the opportunities they saw to create Native and Black characters and stories to fill the gaps left by mainstream youth and YA publishing.

Conference Closing

30 Jul 2021, 18:00 CET
Corinna Norrick-Rühl (English Department, conference convener)
Shef Rogers (SHARP President)