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Paratexts: Thresholds of Interpretation (Literature, Culture, Theory)
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
This book is about literary paratext - essentially, all the "stuff" that surrounds a book's text - title, dedication, preface, perhaps correspondence with the publisher, and so on. It's been a key text for literary scholars - the examples are mostly taken from French literature and a few examples from Sir Walter Scott's work - but the theory behind it can be equally well applied to other literature, or indeed beyond the realm of "literature" per se. I love it!
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5 of 6 people found the following review helpful
on 13 December 2003
Genette's theme is paratexts, all those texts connected to a literary text but not a part of it, like foreword, titles, notes, title page, dust-jacket blurb etc. With a lot of examples drawn primarily from French literature Genette shows what functions these paratexts may have and how they steer our reading of the text itself.
Genette writes in a sometimes wry and witty style, which makes what could have been dreary stuff both interesting and entertaining.
The book can't help being self-referencing, and that in itself makes it interesting. One point is that Genette strongly advocates the reader's right to be informed about the typography used, the name of the type it is set in etc. No such information is available in this book about itself - have the publishers not read it?
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4 of 9 people found the following review helpful
on 9 November 2007
I cannot help but disagree with the other reviewer. This is a very pedestrian trawl through all the various sorts of paratexts available to a writer or publisher. It offers very little in terms of theoretical insight into the contributions paratexts may make to the production, controlling or opening up of literary meaning, focussing instead on ideas of what he calls 'function'. His basic point that paratexts are to be seen as the 'thresholds of interpretation' is banal.

The book is, by Genette's own admission, limited largely to French literature, which is another drawback for anyone interested in paratexts related to English or other literatures. Furthermore, examples are generally drawn from texts written after the eighteenth century, so while he has much on types of paratext like book covers, bibiliographic information and critical prefaces, he glosses over (pun intended) a lot of the really interesting critical implications of early forms of paratextuality, including marginal notations added by readers themselves (although this may not strictly fall within the legitimate scope of his study).

If you want a more interesting theoretical approach to the ways framing devices and marginal types of textuality inform the main body of a text, try Derrida's work on marginality instead.
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