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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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Writing (Learning about): French Writing Manuals and the Peritext 137


FRANÇOISE GRAUBY Writing (Learning about): French Writing Manuals and the Peritext Most ref lections on the paratext agree on its pragmatic dimension. They evoke the inf luence, even manipulation, be it consciously or unconsciously experienced, that it exerts. As Philippe Lane argues in La périphérie du texte, ‘[l]e paratexte se compose […] d’un ensemble hétérogène de pratiques et de discours qui réunit cependant une visée commune, celle qui consiste à la fois à informer et convaincre, asserter et argumenter’.1 He notes further that ‘leur vocation est d’agir sur le(s) lecteur(s) et de tenter de modifier leurs représentations ou systèmes de croyance dans une certaine direction’.2 If we follow Bourdieu’s framework, belief systems are common to all producers of cultural artefacts in a given period. As he reminds us, ‘la présence permanente du passé du champ [de production]’ is such that it perpetuates traditions and creates a historicity of the present: ‘[L]e refus qui est au principe du changement, suppose et pose, et rappelle par là au présent, en s’opposant à lui, cela même à quoi il s’oppose’.3 And then there is the sociologist Judith Schlanger, who points out that ‘les représentations culturelles ont leur façon à elles de se distendre et de perdurer’.4 We may well imagine how much more important these representations and belief systems are when the book, the cultural artefact in question, is a manual, user guide or teaching tool, and the reader...

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