Skip to Navigation Skip to Content Skip to Search Skip to Site Map

Centre for the Book
Events and Opportunities related to Books at the University of Otago

2019 Symposium Programme

Nietzche quotationThis year’s research symposium on the topic of “Biography, Autobiography and Memoirs” will take place on the evening of Thursday 14 November and all day Friday 15 November.  We have a strong line-up of four panels during the day Friday and an exciting presentation by three practitioners of life writing on Thursday evening at the Public Library.

We hope you can join us.  There is no cost to register, but letting us know you are coming will ensure we have ample morning coffee and afternoon tea and a name badge for you.  Lunch will be on your own; you are welcome to bring a lunch or wander out from the Richardson building and find your favourite food.  Click here to register.

You can download the full programme here.  And we will look forward to an inspiring series of talks from a wide variety of perspectives.  Do join us.


“Literary Tourism, Geo-narratives, and Public Humanities,” Insights from the d⦁tour app

The University of Otago Centre for the Book Is delighted to host a public lecture by Assoc Prof David Ciccoricco on “Literary Tourism, Geo-narratives, and Public Humanities; or, why there’s an app for that”.  The talk will take place in the Moot Court, 10th floor of the Richardson Building, at 5:30 pm on Wednesday 2 October 2019.  Details below.

This Centre for the Book talk by David Ciccoricco will share the backstory and future directions of dtour, Dunedin’s literary tourism app, which was created as a UNESCO City of Literature project in 2018. It will demonstrate both live features and backend functionality of the app. The talk will conclude by discussing some of the theoretical context and planned publications surrounding the project, including perspectives from digital humanities, “geo-narratives,” and public humanities.

David Ciccoricco is Creative Director of dtour, Dunedin’s literary tourism app. He is Associate Professor in English and Linguistics at the University of Otago. His research is focused on literary and narrative theory with an emphasis on emergent forms of digital literature, as well as digital culture and posthumanism more generally. He is the author of Reading Network Fiction (2007), a book on pre-Web and Web-based digital fiction, and Refiguring Minds in Narrative Media (2015), which is focused on cognitive approaches to narrative and literary theory in print novels, digital narratives, and story-driven videogames.


A Great Read for Those Interested in Publishing

The NZ Book Council has just published its 2019 annual lecture on its website.  This year the talk was by Lani Wendt Young, a leading Pasifika writer for young people.  The talk is entitled, “Stories from the Wild: Reading and Writing in the Digital Age.”  In it, the author describes her experiences as an independent publisher as well as writer, and her sense of future possibilities.  Highly recommended.

And feel free to check out the previous annual lectures by some of NZ’s leading writers.  They are all of interest and highly readable.

Janine Barchas on “The Lost Books of Jane Austen”

The Centre for the Book is delighted to be able to welcome back our very first-ever speaker, Prof. Janine Barchas, to present the research behind her forthcoming book, due out in October from Johns Hopkins University Press.

Prof, Barchas, the Louann and Larry Temple Centennial Professor in English Literature at the University of Texas at Austin, has provided the following abstract of her talk:

In the nineteenth century, inexpensive editions of Jane Austen’s novels targeted to Britain’s working classes were sold at railway stations, traded for soap wrappers, and awarded as school prizes.  At just pennies a copy, these reprints were some of the earliest mass-market paperbacks, with Austen’s beloved stories squeezed into tight columns on thin, cheap paper.  Few of these hard-lived bargain books survive, yet they made a substantial difference to Austen’s early readership.

I do hope you can join us to hear about the effects of these books and what they have done in the world.  The lecture is in the Moot Court Room, on the tenth floor of the Richardson Building, at 5:30 pm on Wednesday, 21 August.  Don’t miss this opportunity to hear about new work from a leading book historian and Jane Austen expert.

And if you’d like a sneak preview, but lacking the wonderful images, you can listen to Janine talking to Kim Hill on Saturday the 17th on Radio NZ.

Talk about New Book on Truth in Media by Stephen Davis

Please join us on Thursday the 8th of August at 5:30 pm in Archway 1 to hear Stephen Davis on this this timely topic.

The Centre for the Book is delighted to host a provocative talk by investigative reporter, TV journalist and writer Stephen Davis.   The talk is entitled Faking It:  Understanding the Modern World of Truth Prevention, Fake News and Conspiracy Theories, He will be speaking about his new book, Truthteller, recently published by Exisle PublishingThe book “is an essential guide to how governments and corporations cover up murder, corruption and catastrophe, for teachers, students and concerned citizens who want to know the facts, not fake news. Using exclusive documents and interviews from a career as an award-winning reporter, editor, foreign correspondent and television producer, Stephen Davis reveals shocking details of deceptions from Brazil to Antarctica, London to Los Angeles.”

Stephen Davis has been on the front lines of journalism for three decades as an investigative reporter in TV, magazines and newspapers and as a leading journalism educator, trying to uphold the ideals of the fourth estate, and to inspire his students to do the same.  Along the way he has encountered lying politicians and corporate con men, spies and special forces soldiers, secret policemen and scared scientists. Among those who have tried to dissuade him from reporting his stories: men with Kalashnikovs, government lawyers, corporate PRs in fancy suits, senior police officers, billionaires, and newspaper owners. Davis has worked for The Sunday Times in both London and Los Angeles, been a war and foreign correspondent, a TV producer for 60 Minutes and 20/20, a newspaper editor, a documentary film maker for the BBC and Discovery, and has taught journalism to thousands of students from all over the world. He has won multiple awards for his investigative reporting, including a silver medal at the New York film and television awards, and has designed and run journalism degree programs in London, Sydney and Melbourne.

We hope you can join us for a different slant on the issue of what print can do in the world.

Donald Kerr Reveals All

For anyone who missed the recent Careers column from the ODT, here is a brief interview with Donald about his life as Director of Special Collections.  He’s a busy man of many talents (and the article does not even mention his drum-playing).


Special Collections Exhibition: “The Female of the Species: A Celebration of Women in History”

‘As a class, women seem always to have been too busy to say much about themselves. And sometimes it has seemed that the more worthwhile their deeds the less they said about them. Few women have had Boswells, though many should have’.
                                                        –Kate Campbell Hurd-Mead, 1937

A woman’s role in society, until recently, has traditionally been as wife, mother, and caregiver. She is often remembered in history, overwhelmingly written by men, for her looks, her body, or her scandalous behaviour. Women make up at least half of the world’s population, but they occupy less than one percent of recorded history.

On June 21st the exhibition, The Female of the Species: A Celebration of Women in History, opened in the de Beer Gallery, Special Collections at the University of Otago. It will run through until the 13th September.

Women have always been writers, inventors, mathematicians, health practitioners, artists, rebels, activists, and warriors, but their contributions to society have often been overlooked, fading into a background overshadowed by men. The exhibition will go some way towards addressing this lack of recognition for women in history.

Famous women appear, such as Cleopatra, Emmeline Pankhurst, Marie Curie, Harriet Beecher Stowe, Florence Nightingale, and Janet Frame. Other less familiar names are also highlighted, like Christine de Pisan, the 14th century proto-feminist; Boudica, Queen of the Iceni; Hypatia, the ancient Greek mathematician; Ida Pfeiffer, the Austrian traveller; Mary Somerville, the scientist; Ann Radcliffe, the writer; Margaret Sanger, the birth control activist; Teuta, the pirate Queen; Charlotte Guillard, the Paris printer; and many more besides.

Venue: Special Collections, de Beer Gallery, 1st floor, Central University Library

Exhibition hours: 8.30 am to 5.00 pm.

For further information, please contact the curator Romilly Smith (; Dr Donald Kerr, Special Collections Librarian (

[With apologies for the delayed posting; the blog editor has been on annual leave]

2019 Symposium Call for Papers, 14–15 November, 2 September Abstract Deadline

Nietzche quotationThink Plutarch’s Lives, Boswell’s Johnson, Holroyd’s Shaw, Herrera’s Frida Kahlo; Augustine’s Confessions, Stein’s Alice B. Toklas, John Cowper Powys’sAutobiography; Casanova’s Memoirs, Karen Blixen’s Out of Africa, Anne Frank’s Diary….and of course much more in what is a very popular reading genre.

Considering the above titles, the University of Otago Centre for the Book is pleased to announce our eighth annual research symposium. The theme for the 2019 Centre for the Book Symposium is “Biography, Autobiography and Memoirs.”  The symposium proper will take place on the University campus all day Friday, November 15th. Details on the venue to follow.

Relevant topics of the theme might include, but are not limited to:

  • The differences among those three terms
  • The role of selection in shaping a more coherent narrative
  • Transitions among the three forms—memoir becoming autobiography, autobiography informing biography
  • The role of ghost writers in these genres
  • Scope of coverage for such works
  • Ethics of honesty in depicting lives – the truth?
  • Personal narratives as part of national or global narratives
  • Challenges and successes in publishing these forms
  • Reading personal narratives—what do we look for?  What do we allow?  How essential are indexes?
  • Motivations for writing a personal story
  • Personal stories in non-print formats—oral histories, video, xxx
  • Circulation of personal narratives and inclusion of group knowledge within personal stories

As usual, we will begin our symposium with a public lecture on Thursday, November 14th in the Dunningham Room, 4th floor, Dunedin City Library. In this instance, an experienced panel of biographers and memoirists will discuss the genre.

Important notice: The Centre for the Book Symposium will be free to attend, with delegates responsible for providing their own lunch. We do ask that those wishing to attend register on our website,, so that we can cater for morning and afternoon tea.

Call for Papers

The theme is an exciting one, and we can imagine a raft of slants and approaches that one can take towards this genre. All of the above topics are of potential interest for the Centre for the Book Symposium, along with others we no doubt have not yet imagined. So, sharpen that pencil, and email a 250-300 word abstract of your ideas to and set aside the middle week of November for a thought-provoking symposium.

Abstracts must be received by Monday, 2 September 2019, with a final programme announced by mid-September.  If you have any questions, please contact Dr. Donald Kerr ( or Dr. Shef Rogers (

For the Love of Books: Collectors and Collections

Opening this Friday , the next Special Collections’ exhibition, “For the Love of Books: Collectors and Collections,” offers a very selective overview of all the types of materials within Special Collections. It highlights the type of books amassed by collectors such as Willi Fels, Esmond de Beer, Charles Brasch, and the Rev. William Arderne Shoults, as well as those discrete collections such as the Scientific Expedition Reports, and the Pulp Fiction Collection.

In essence, the exhibition is a taster. A brief but illuminating glimpse into what makes up Special Collections. And in 2019, on the sesquicentennial (150 years) celebrations of the establishment of the University of Otago, it is fitting to acknowledge the generosity of both past and recent benefactors to Special Collections. Importantly, we encourage use, and it is pleasing to acknowledge that the different collections that form Special Collections are used regularly by students and staff of the University, by national and international scholars, and by individuals from the wider community.

The exhibition runs 8:30-5:00 Monday through Friday, 22 March to 14 June 2019.  Do call in to renew old acquaintances and discover new treasures.

Catch-Up Book Club back for a new season

The Centre for the Book is delighted to announce that UBS will be running a second season of the Catch-Up Book Group, once again featuring speakers from the English programme.  First up is Dr. Rochelle Simmons tomorrow evening, 19 March, on Michael Ondaatje’s English Patient.  Six weeks later, on 30 April, Associate Professor Simone Marshall will present Beowulf, and Dr. Paul Tankard will round off the season with the longest book of the year, J. R. R. Tolkien’s Lord of the Rings trilogy, on 21 May.

All the gatherings are at 6pm for a 6:30 start, winding down at 7:30.  Please come along to reconnect with friends old and new, friends in print and in person.