In paratext we trust

The Paratext’s the Thing By Thomas Doherty

The paratext is the satellite debris orbiting and radiating out from the core text: what the post-­telecast chatfest Talking Dead is to The Walking Dead, what Madonna-vs.-Lady Gaga mashups are to the original music videos, what Wolverine action figures are to the X-Men franchise—what all the buzzing swarms of trailers, teasers, bloopers, tweets, swag, webisodes, podcasts, chat rooms, fanzines, geek conventions, DVD extras, synergistic tie-ins, and branded merchandise, in all their infinite varieties, are to the mother ship. If the main text is the great white shark, the paratext is the pilot fish—and if the old-school film critic wanted to sink his teeth into a close textual analysis of Steven Spielberg’s Jaws (1975), the paratextual critic prefers to dissect the creation and marketing of Bruce, the mechanical shark at the Universal Studios tour.
Not surprisingly, the territory was first staked out by a French literary theorist in the structuralist mode, Gérard Genette, whose Paratexts: Thresholds of Interpretation, published in 1987 and translated by Cambridge University Press into English in 1997, can lay claim to putting the term into the mouths of graduate students and tenure-trackers. Genette was drawn to the „accompanying productions” flitting around and inside a text, the stuff before, after, and in medias res that filters our perception of it. „Now the paratext is neither on the interior nor on the exterior: It is both; it is on the threshold; and it is on this very site that we must study it, because essentially, perhaps, its being depends upon its site,” he decreed with characteristic Gallic clarity. That is, the paratext may look like an expendable spleen, but it is really a vital organ beating within—and without—the body of the text and providing essential life support. (Genette also delineated categories like peritext, epitext, hypertext, and hypotext, but best to take this one prefix at a time.)

 

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Despre Claudiu Degeratu
Expert in securitate nationala, internationala, NATO, UE, aparare si studii strategice

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