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

Change of Plans for World Book Day

We’re sad to announce that for personal reasons Professor Maryanne Wolf will no longer be visiting Otago University in March.

Maryanne Wolf is the Director of the Center for Dyslexia, Diverse Learners, and Social Justice at the UCLA Graduate School of Education and Information Studies, and author of four books about reading, the most recent of which is Reader, Come Home: The Reading Brain in a Digital World.

We will hold a public lecture on Thursday, 5 March, the usual day for World Book Day, and announce a new speaker soon.

150th Celebration Printer-in-Residence Project Underway

Be sure to call by the Otakou Press in the Central Library to see how the printers are progressing.  This year’s is a very local project.  To celebrate the university’s 150th year, John Holmes andMarion Wassenaar are printing one hundred copies of a book of letters to the editor of the Otago Daily Times from New Zealand poet Charles Brasch.  The publication will offer insights into a less familiar tone of Brasch’s voice and shed light on the cultural history of Dunedin as debated in the pages of the ODT.  You can read more about the publication here.

If you are interested in purchasing a copy, please contact Donald Kerr to be added to his list of contacts to notify when the book is completed.

A Timely Exhibition: Special Collections’ on the Year 1869

On 3 June 1869, the University of Otago Ordinance 1869 became law. This meant that the newly established University became a corporate body with power to grant degrees. This was a significant first for New Zealand. Two years later, with a building secured (the now demolished ‘Post Office’ building near the Exchange), and three professors appointed: John Shand, (Natural Philosophy); George Sale (Classics); and Duncan Macgregor (Mental and Moral Philosophy and Political Economy), classes began. The first class was on 10 July 1871, with 81 students enrolled. The University of Otago’s rich history continues today. Its establishment and legacy form part of the current exhibition “1869: The Year That Was,” which begins on 20 September 2019 at the de Beer Gallery, Special Collections, 1st floor, Central University Library.

Of course, other events occurred in 1869, forming a then unwritten but much wider history. While the University Council were debating the administrational matters necessary to make the newly formed educational institution work, events were occurring on a local and international level. Each had their own particular impact. Some of the events of 1869 that feature in the exhibition include the formation of the Otago Institute; the first Fine Arts Exhibition in New Zealand; the first ‘Royal’ visit to New Zealand; the introduction of the New Zealand Cross; the births of Rasputin, Emma Goldman, and Gandhi; the opening of the Suez Canal; and the formation of Dmitry Ivanovich Mendeleev’s periodic table. Tolstoy’s War and Peace was published in 1869, as was Louisa May Alcott’s Little Women. ‘Contextualization is everything!’

All these moments and more are available for your viewing pleasure in Special Collections from 9–5 Monday to Friday.  Please enjoy “1869, The Year That Was.”

Children’s Writing Event—1 Week Left for Early-Bird Registration

Register now for the WILD Imaginings Children’s Writers’ and Illustrators’ Hui!

WILD Imaginings promises a scintillating programme delivered by some of the country’s most celebrated children’s book creators and influential industry professionals. Check out the WILD Imaginings programme here.

Discounted early bird registration is now open until 1 October for this national hui, which takes place in Dunedin on the weekend of 8-10 November, in association with Storylines.

Enjoy an invigorating weekend immersed in the world of children’s books, in the heart of New Zealand’s UNESCO City of Literature!
Register for WILD Imaginings

Follow the WILD Imaginings Facebook page

World Book Day a bit later in 2020

Due to an exciting opportunity to host a major scholar, we are deferring the annual World Book Day celebrations slightly next year.  So pencil Wednesday 25 March into your diaries, and look forward to a most interesting public lecture by Prof. Maryanne Wolf, and consider joining us afterward for a buffet dinner at the Staff Club.

Prof. Wolf is a scholar, a teacher, and an advocate for children and literacy around the world. She is the Director of the  newly created Center for Dyslexia, Diverse Learners, and Social Justice at the UCLA Graduate School of Education and Information Studies.  Previously she was the  John DiBiaggio Professor of Citizenship and Public Service and  Director of the Center for Reading and Language Research in the Eliot-Pearson Department of Child Study and Human Development at Tufts University.  She is the author of Proust and the Squid: The Story and Science of the Reading Brain (2007, HarperCollins), Dyslexia, Fluency, and the Brain (Edited; York, 2001),  Tales of Literacy for the 21st Century (2016, Oxford University Press), and Reader, Come Home: The Reading Brain in a Digital World (August, 2018, HarperCollins). (More details at

Her visit is made possible by the Book Council of NZ and we are thrilled to be able to hear about Prof. Wolf’s work and deep insights about reading.

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.