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Masking Strategies

Unwrapping the French Paratext

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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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Postface: Paratextuality, Self-Alterity and the Becoming-Text 159

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ALISTAIR ROLLS and MARIE-LAURE VUAILLE-BARCAN Postface: Paratextuality, Self-Alterity and the Becoming-Text Et sous mon ciel de faïence Je ne vois briller que les correspondances – Serge Gainsbourg, Le Poinçonneur des Lilas The aim of this book has been, and is, to generate fresh ideas around the paratext both as a phenomenon and a concept. The individual chapters have, by and large, taken Genette’s classification of paratextual elements as a starting point for examining dif ferent aspects of a text’s relationship with its readers and/or its publishers. By way of a postface, we wish to test the perversity of the paratext a little further, to stretch its limits and to chal- lenge the accepted understanding of what can reasonably be understood by the paratext as compared to the text. In particular, we shall examine how the beginnings of certain books extend the paratext into the diegesis proper. In short, this concluding chapter will of fer something of an exit via the incipit. And so to beginnings… Locating the beginning of this ‘chapter proper’ is itself a paratextual exercise. It may have begun with the previous, introductory paragraph; alternatively, it may only be getting underway now. There is also a title here, which probably, or at least relatively unproblematically, forms part of the chapter itself more closely than do the authors’ names, which sug- gest ownership rather than identity. And what of the epigraph? The ques- tion of its belonging, and indeed of its ownership, is if not our beginning then...

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