Old tricks for new dogs: Resurrecting bibliography and literary history

Hetherington, Carol (2009). Old tricks for new dogs: Resurrecting bibliography and literary history. In Katherine Bode and Robert Dixon (Ed.), Resourceful Reading: The New Empiricism, eResearch, and Australian Literary Culture (pp. 70-83) Sydney, Australia: Sydney University Press.

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Name Description MIMEType Size Downloads
Author Hetherington, Carol
Title of chapter Old tricks for new dogs: Resurrecting bibliography and literary history
Title of book Resourceful Reading: The New Empiricism, eResearch, and Australian Literary Culture
Place of Publication Sydney, Australia
Publisher Sydney University Press
Publication Year 2009
Sub-type Research book chapter (original research)
Year available 2010
ISBN 9781920899455
Editor Katherine Bode
Robert Dixon
Chapter number 3
Start page 70
End page 83
Total pages 14
Total chapters 18
Collection year 2010
Language eng
Subjects 200502 Australian Literature (excl. Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Literature)
200599 Literary Studies not elsewhere classified
080707 Organisation of Information and Knowledge Resources
0807 Library and Information Studies
08 Information and Computing Sciences
Abstract/Summary Few would argue with the observation made in the Concise Oxford Dictionary of Literary Terms that the term ‘empiricism’ ‘as used in modern literary theory … usually has an unfavourable sense, referring to those critical approaches that dismiss theoretical abstraction in the belief that texts (or facts of history or biography) can “speak for themselves” without the intervention of analysis and interpretation.’ The Dictionary further defines ‘one who pursues any inquiry within the limits of empiricism, or who regards theory as a distraction … [as] an empiricist.’ In these terms, bibliographers must surely be the most empirical of researchers in the field of literary studies and, like others of an empirical inclination, they have been, to say the least, unfashionable in Australia for several decades. Their discipline is barely represented in university courses, considered ineligible for research funding, and has been conspicuously absent from conference programs. Indeed the principles, practices and tools of bibliography are little understood by a generation of new researchers. The work of Australian bibliography, set in motion in the 1940s by the legendary Morris Miller, came to a halt in the 1970s, stalled by concentration on new critical and theoretical approaches to literature until it was revived in the 1990s by the collaborative projects that resulted in the formation of AustLit. The relatively recent shift of focus to book history, reading and readership, and print culture studies, while giving new impetus to empirical research, has also exposed gaps and inaccuracies in the story of what we as a society read and wrote that result to a significant degree from this focus away from bibliographical research. In this paper I shall argue for the need to once again accord central importance to bibliographic research. AustLit: The Australian Literature Resource is an electronic bibliography which preserves the richness of the Australian bibliographic tradition in a contemporary format, continuing, updating and enhancing its work. It is both a research tool and a research repository and provides a unique opportunity for data analyses that have the potential to open up new perspectives on Australian literary history. To be meaningful, these evidence-based studies must be able to draw on informed and meticulously compiled data. Using a series of examples and brief case studies, this paper will demonstrate the need to re-instate bibliography as the cornerstone of literary studies. In a climate where empiricism is newly respectable, it is time for bibliographers to come in from the cold.
Keyword Literary history
Australian literature
Librarianship education
Q-Index Code B1
Q-Index Status Confirmed Code

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Created: Mon, 18 Jan 2010, 16:13:34 EST by Ms Carol Hetherington on behalf of Library Corporate Services