Questions of authorship bring into play many of the central questions of literary theory: questions as to what constitutes the unity and coherence of texts, the interpretive relevance of authorial intention, the relation of oral to literate cultures, the regulation of writing by church and state, the legal underpinnings of literary property, the significance of forgery and plagiarism, and so on. At the heart of many of these questions is a distinction between two different orders of phenomena. Writers are not necessarily authors: authorship requires recognition and attribution, and these depend on institutional processes of publication, textual stabilization, criticism, education, and appropriate legal, regulatory, and economic conditions. Those processes and conditions vary from culture to culture, as do the particular historical forms that authorship takes. In the contemporary world authorship tends to be cast as though it were directly expressive of a personality, an inner core of selfhood, that underwrites the coherence of the texts attributed to it; the commercialization of that form gives rise to a cult of the author in both academic and popular culture.
Contemporary Australian literary culture is formed through networks of institutions that support writing and reading. This infrastructure, itself shaped by Australia’s history as a former British colony and its current status as a medium-sized market in a global book industry, creates specific conditions for the production and reception of Australian literature. Institutions do not comprise the whole of Australian literary culture, and many individuals and groups position themselves as outsiders, or as members of counter-networks. Nonetheless, the work done by literary organizations enables significant acts of writing, access to reading, and debates about the role of literature in contemporary Australian society. Six networks are key to Australia’s literary culture. First, publishing in Australia is structured by a mix of local offices of multinational companies and independent presses, whose list building—and consequent effects on Australian authors and readers—is influenced by their market position and capacity for digital innovation. Distribution of books in contemporary Australia occurs through libraries and bookshops; book retail is predominantly a mix of online bookshops, independent bookstores, and discount department stores, following the closure of many Australian big-box bookshops and chain stores in 2011. Australia has a growing network of literary festivals, including flagship events that attract tens of thousands of readers as well as focused events that nurture particular genres or groups of writers. Australia’s calendar of literary prizes also supports writers, builds canons, and maintains the visibility of literary culture. These expansive networks are complemented by the smaller, though influential, readerships of Australian literary magazines, which foster new writing and drive cultural debates. Finally, schools and universities institutionalize Australian writing through their curricula and increasingly provide training and employment for writers. Together, these active networks provide an outline for the form of contemporary Australian literary culture.
The modern concept of authorship evolved in parallel with the legal recognition of the author as the subject of certain property rights within the marketplace for books. Such a market was initially regulated by a system of printing privileges, which was replaced by copyright laws at the juncture of the 18th and 19th centuries. The inclusion of copyright under the umbrella of property and the dominating economic discourse marked the naissance of a new figure of the author, namely, the author as supplier of intellectual labor to the benefit of society at large. In this sense, products of authorship became fully fledged commodities to be exchanged in the global marketplace. Focusing on the transition between the privilege and the copyright systems, and the prevailing economic rationale for the protection of works of authorship, leads to a more original understanding of authorship as rooted in the human need for reciprocal communication for the sake of truth. Modern authorship, being grounded in a narrow utilitarian understanding of authors’ rights, is detached from both the economic logic of the privilege system and the rational foundation of copyright.
The Bible as a text can be read with or without reference to its compilation as a theologically constructed collection of sacred Jewish and Christian books. When read without such framing concerns, it may be approached with the full range of literary and theoretical interpretive tools and read for whatever purpose readers value or wish to explore. Less straightforwardly, in the former case where framing concerns come into play, the Bible is both like and unlike any other book in the way that its very nature as a “canon” of scripture is related to particular theological and religious convictions. Such convictions are then in turn interested in configuring the kinds of readings pursued in certain ways. Biblical criticism has undergone many transformations over the centuries, sometimes allowing such theological convictions or practices to shape the nature of its criticism, and at other times—especially in the modern period—tending to relegate their significance in favor of concerns with interpretive method, and in particular questions about authorial intention, original context, and interest in matters of history (either in the world behind the text, or in the stages of development of the text itself). From the middle of the 20th century onwards the interpretive interests of biblical critics have focused more on certain literary characteristics of biblical narratives and poetry, and also a greater theological willingness to engage the imaginative vision of biblical texts. This has resulted in a move toward a theological form of criticism that might better be characterized as imaginative and invites explicit negotiation of readers’ identities and commitments. A sense of the longer, premodern history of biblical interpretation suggests that some of these late 20th- and early 21st-century emphases do themselves have roots in the interpretive practices of earlier times, but that the Reformation (and subsequent developments in modern thinking) effectively closed down certain interpretive options in the name of better ordering readers’ interpretive commitments. Though not without real gains, this narrowing of interpretive interests has resulted in much of the practice of academic biblical criticism being beholden to modernist impulses. Shifts toward postmodern emphases have been less common on the whole, but the overall picture of biblical criticism has indeed changed in the 21st century. This may be more owing to the impact of a renewed appetite for theologically imaginative readings among Christian readers, and also of the refreshed recognition of Jewish traditions of interpretation that pose challenging framing questions to other understandings.
John Wharton Lowe
Transnationalism and Global Studies have exploded old notions of artificial cultural boundaries, opening to view the myriad cross currents between the U.S. South and the Caribbean. Thus, the literature produced by the wider region of the circumCaribbean can be considered to reflect this interplay and as an alternative history to chronicles bounded by nationalism. While the age of contact and contest, the Haitian Revolution, and the U.S.–Mexican War were early focal points for interchange, the mutual influences of cultures have been dynamic, ongoing, and intricately connected to immigration, diaspora, racial conflict and mixing, and the creation of new forms of cultural expression. Nowhere is this dynamic more evident than in the literature of the circumCaribbean, especially in the new forms it has taken over the past fifty years.
Rita Indiana Hernández (b. June 11, 1977, Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic) is a Dominican writer, musician, and performer. In addition to her popularity as a singer-songwriter, she is widely regarded as one of the most important Dominican authors of her generation. Her literary career began in the 1990s with short works included in zines such as Vetas. By 2001, she had self-published three books: two collections of short stories—Rumiantes (1998) and Ciencia succión (2001)—and one novella, La estrategia de Chochueca (2000). A second novel, Papi, followed in 2005. About that time, she began experimenting with musical and visual projects as part of different performance groups, such as Casifull and Miti Miti. In 2009, she was the youngest Dominican author to be honored in the Santo Domingo Book Fair, where she was also booked as a musical performer. Her popularity as a musician grew even more after the 2010 release of the album El juidero, recorded with her band Rita Indiana y los Misterios. She subsequently published two more novels, Nombres y animales (2013) and La mucama de Omicunlé (2015). Scholarly interest in her writing and her music has centered on the way they give voice to contemporary subjectivities and put forth imaginaries of citizenship, social relationships, and belonging that depart from institutionalized discourses of identity. Rita Indiana has stated on various occasions that she sees her literary projects and her musical projects as intertwined endeavors. This is evident not just in the thematic unity between them but also in the aesthetic strategies she uses. In her work, she references mass media, Dominican popular cultural production, and global youth cultures to highlight the interplay between the local and the global in the postmodern Caribbean. Rita Indiana also explores issues pertaining to the intersections of race, gender, sexuality, class, and migratory status. Since approximately the middle of the 2000s, Rita Indiana’s work has been embraced increasingly by critics. She was also named one of the one hundred most influential Latino/a personalities by the Spanish newspaper El País.