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Masking Strategies

Unwrapping the French Paratext


Edited By Alistair Rolls and Maire-Laure Vuaille-Barcan

Gérard Genette’s seminal study of the paratext, Seuils (1987), is the starting point for this collection of essays, all of which seek not only to engage with Genette’s taxonomy and apply it, but also to interrogate it and to move through and beyond it. In addition to mapping Genette’s organization of (para)textual space onto a number of French texts, including novels and plays, texts translated into French, book series and publishing marketing material, these essays take up some of the challenges raised in Seuils as well as posing their own. For example, the relationship between Genette’s work and deconstructionist approaches to text and the intersection of paratextuality and translation, which are hinted at by Genette, are explored in more detail in the volume, as is the notion of moving through and beyond the paratext. As such, this book offers a significant re-engagement with and deployment of paratextual theory and practice.


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Introduction: Unwrapping the French Paratext 1


1 analysis of the paratextual covers that contain within them the published script, establishing theatrical success as an objet d’art in its own right. Unu- sual in that the script of this particular play has been so often re-published, the choices of cover vary considerably, with some following the conven- tions of the series and others extending the play’s own thematic concerns about how public perception precariously and tenuously ascribes value to works of art. In each case, the materiality of the work before its readers, directors, performers and producers is established by the visual replica of an untouched ‘piece of art’ in the form of the cover, standing as icon for the tableau so central to the play. The close-up on covers continues in Jean Fornasiero and John West- Sooby’s analysis of the strategies that can be inferred from the art used on the covers of Australian crime novels when they are marketed in transla- tion in France. Fornasiero and West-Sooby’s comparison of ‘original’ and ‘French’ front covers and cover blurbs suggests a highly complex transfer and redeployment of cultural traditions and stereotypes. The power relations at play when a crime-fiction superpower translates and markets a(nother) national crime fiction by which its own readers appear fascinated make for a rich field of analysis, one lying at the intersection of translation, lit- erary and cultural studies. Is French crime fiction a dominant paradigm first and then a centripetal force that pulls in texts to be translated, in a win-win...

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