Monday musings on Australian literature: AustLit FREE TRIAL

When I first discovered AustLit (Australian Literature Resource) in the early 2000s I was thrilled. What fan of Aussie literature wouldn’t be excited by a database for Australian writers and writing? Created in 2000 by Australia’s university sector and led by the University of Queensland, AustLit “aims to be the definitive virtual research environment and information resource for Australian literary, print, and narrative culture” (from AustLit’s About page) – and it pretty much is, I’d say.

However, it is also a subscription service – and an expensive one at that – so my use of it has been limited to when I’ve been able to access it, either through public/national library logons (on-site at the library) or through my occasional contract work for a university (logon at home). But, during June and July (2013), AustLit is offering a free trial. Why didn’t I know? I’ve wasted a month’s good research! OK, I probably should have known. It was very likely announced in one of the many emails I receive and I missed it. Hands up who manages to read every email from every service they subscribe to?

Anyhow, I’d say, if you are interested in Australian literature and have some writers or works you want to research, hop to it now by clicking through to the AustLit website. Search, for example, on Elizabeth Jolley and you will get a link to AustLit’s author page for her. Author pages contain the following information, where applicable:

  • Most referenced works (with a link to all the author’s works)
  • Brief but useful biography
  • Awards
  • Awards for works

There are also – and here is where it gets exciting – links to:

  • Works about the author
  • Works about the author’s works

Click on these to get a listing of articles, books, essays etc about the author (349 for Jolley) or the works (546 for Jolley). They are listed alphabetically by title, but in the right sidebar are options for sorting and filtering. So, for example, you can sort the list by date or filter it by form, such as to retrieve just “reviews” or “criticism”.

But here is also where the disappointment hits. These lists comprise citations to the articles, essays etc. In most cases, you then need to find the journal or book in which they are located – through a journal database or the old way through a library catalogue. Being a person of the digital age, I want the content and I want it now! Admittedly, some are available on-line – indicated by a clickable arrow over which you can hover to see an abstract – but, not surprisingly, they are mostly recent works and there aren’t many of them. I’m sure DRM issues are involved here, in addition to availability in electronic form. To locate this content quickly, you can limit your search by clicking the “full text only” box. Do that on the main search page where you’ve also entered Elizabeth Jolley – did I tell you I’m a Jolley fan? – and you get 20 hits. Not a lot, but a good start. I understand that digitisation is an ongoing project so more and more content will become available.

There is more to AustLit. There are full text versions of poems and novels (either on the site or linked to from the site) and there’s a wide range of projects including ScreenLit, BlackWords and Banned in Australia. But, if you are interested, get in quick. Your free trial access has 30 days to go!

Seriously though, AustLit is a seriously good site.

Have you used the AustLit database, and if so what do you think? If you are not from Australia, are you aware of similar database projects for your national literature – and if so, what is it?

10 thoughts on “Monday musings on Australian literature: AustLit FREE TRIAL

  1. It looks to be such a valuable resource. I agree however that these days, if I cannot access an article instantly, it is very disappointing.

  2. What a marvelous resource! Too bad you missed the first half of the free subscription period. I am sure you will make up for it in July though! 🙂

    • I’ll do my best Stefanie … though apparently now I can also log-in from home with my National Library membership. That wasn’t possible last time I checked. Woo hoo.

    • Thanks Isabel … I subscribe to Reading Matters but don’t always read every post immediately. I have responded over there now, but I’m not sure I’ve provided the desired answer!

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