edited by Birger Hjørland and Claudio Gnoli



by Roswitha Skare

Table of contents:
1. Definition
2. History
3. Characteristics and components of the concept
4. Application of the concept
    4.1 Electronic literature and digitized narratives
    4.2 Film and television
    4.3 Computer games and gaming
    4.4 Library and information science: 4.4.1 Knowledge organization
5. Conclusion

This article presents Gérard Genette’s concept of the paratext by defining the term and by describing its characteristics. The use of the concept in other disciplines than literary studies and for other media than printed books is discussed. The last section shows the relevance of the concept for library and information science in general and for knowledge organization, in which paratext in particular is connected to the concept “metadata”.


1. Definition

Paratext is a term coined by the French literary critic Gérard Genette. The term appears for the first time in Genette’s Introduction à l’architexte (1979) and is mentioned again in Palimpsests (1982) as one of five types of relationship between literary texts [1]. For Genette “the paratext is what enables a text to become a book and to be offered to its readers and, more generally, to the public” (Genette 1997, 1). In doing so, Genette points out the importance of paratextual elements in transforming the text into a book, and the fact that a text is not necessarily the same thing as a book, even if texts often appear in book format.

A paratext thus is a text that relates (or mediates) to another text (the main work) in a way that enables the work to be complete and to be offered to its readers and, more generally, to the public.

The paratext is “a threshold, or — a word Borges used […] — a ‘vestibule’ that offers the world at large the possibility of either stepping inside or turning back. It is an ‘undefined zone’ between the inside and the outside, a zone without any hard and fast boundary” (Genette 1997, 2).

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2. History

In Seuils (1987) Genette gives a complete study of the notion for the first time [2]. Genette explores the potential of the concept for the medium of the printed book, but concludes that “the other arts have an equivalent of our paratext” (Genette 1997, 407). Seuils has been translated into German (1989) and English (1997), and the concept has since been applied by scholars in other disciplines than literary studies and for other media than printed books.

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3. Characteristics, components

Genette divides the paratext into a peritext and an epitext (paratext = peritext + epitext): the former being aspects that are relatively closely associated with the book itself, such as the dustcover, the title, genre indication, foreword and epilogue or even various themes, while the latter consists of statements about the book beyond the bounders of the book such as interviews, letters, diaries, correspondences and articles about the text in, for instance, journals. Genette’s approach follows the order in which a potential reader usually meets the different elements he explores: he starts with the external presentation of the book (its cover and title page) and studies format, typesetting, whether the book is part of a series or not, the name of the author and the title (possibly including an indication of the genre). He then works his way through the elements inside the book cover like cover blurbs, forewords, dedications, intertitles and notes, and describes the paratextual message’s “spatial, temporal, substantial, pragmatic, and functional characteristics” (Genette 1997, 4). In the last and smallest part of the study he discusses the public and private epitext that can contain of everything written or said about a text. While the peritext often is neglected “by the literary world (including specialists), the situation of the epitext is obviously very different. Critics and literary historians have long made extensive use of the epitext in commenting on works” (Genette 1997, 346).

The division between peri- and epitext is purely spatial, and epitext can become peritext and vice versa. We might think of examples like an author’s letter or an interview with an author that becomes part of the book as pre- or postface. The elements of the paratext are “depending on period, culture, genre, author, work, and edition” (Genette 1997, 3), and might vary and change over time from edition to edition, but also in the case of translation from one language and culture to another. In addition to that, a paratextual element may appear, disappear and reappear again at any time, definitely or not. To illustrate these changes, Genette mentions examples of titles that have been shortened by posterity and prefaces that have been deleted in a new edition for later to reemerge in a newer edition.

By using numerous examples from the history of the book, Genette shows what role paratextual elements play in interpreting a text. Genette includes also the knowledge a reader might have about the author like the degree of celebrity, his/her age and gender, awards, honorary degrees, and so on in the discussion. In so doing, Genette combines material aspects of a document with its context.

Most of the paratextual elements explored by Genette are textual elements. But he mentions also non-textual manifestations: iconic (such as illustrations), material (for instance typography, format, binding, paper quality) and factual (the author’s gender and age, her reputation, awards etc.).

By drawing our attention not only to textual elements, but also to factual, iconic and material, Genette also includes social and economic aspects in his analyses. As Genette’s points to, these elements not only present a text to a potential readership, they are also influencing the marketing, selling and interpretation of a book by attempting to steer the way of our experience in a particular direction. Or as Birke and Christ put it: paratextual elements have both interpretative, commercial and navigational functions (2013, 67-68) [3].

Genette’s concept and especially his division into peri- and epitext is not completely unproblematic, because elements can change their position, appear or disappear. In addition, in many cases it can be difficult to decide where to draw the line between text and paratext [4] and between paratext and non-paratext. Genette himself advises against proclaiming all as paratext (Genette 1997, 407). He concludes the study by stating that his “inventory of paratextual elements remains incomplete” (Genette 1997, 404) and mentions three practices left out from the study because of missing historical information or the need for additional skills (technical and iconological): translation, serial publication, and illustration (Genette 1997, 405-406). Genette points also to the fact that many of the choices taken by authors and publishers today are neutralized because of the “irreversible tendency toward standardization” (Genette 1997, 34).

By considering the author and the publisher as “the two people responsible for the text and the paratext” (Genette 1997, 9), Genette ignores the fact that many other people might be involved in the production of a book, some mentioned by name, others not. When analyzing paratextual elements and their importance for the understanding and interpretation of a text, it might be difficult to find out who has actually taken the decision and why. Nevertheless, we can always assume that the choices are made in order to fulfill a function. In addition to that, we might assume that popular and successful authors often have more influence on decisions made by the publisher like the choice of title and the cover illustration (cf. Skare 2008).

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4. Application of the concept

As pointed out in the foreword of the English translation of Seuils, Genette is hard to categorize and has been called structuralist, narratologist, rhetorician, semiotician and more. In literary studies Genette is probably best known for his narratology. Even if the foreword of the English translation labels Paratexts as a “key work in Genette’s career” (xvii), the paratext is often considered as something additional and not as important as the actual text [5].

Nevertheless, Genette’s concept has been applied and modified both by literary scholars [6] and by scholars in other disciplines like film studies [7] (cf. Kreimeier and Stanitzek 2004; Gwóźdź 2009; Böhnke 2007; Gray 2010), digital narratives and media studies (cf. Birke and Christ 2013; Desrochers and Apollon 2014; Pesce and Noto 2016), game studies, but also museum studies, translation analysis (cf. Pellatt 2013), and knowledge organization and information retrieval (cf. Andersen 2002; Paling 2002) [8]. Not surprisingly, digital media and the appearance of new paratextual elements in the digital word are discussed in recent years.

Peter Lunenfeld’s essay “Unfinished business” (2000) is often considered the first attempt to use Genette’s concept with regard to new media. He claims that text and paratext are blended to an “undifferentiated and blurred” (Lunenfeld 2000, 18) product in digital media. The same argument has been used by others when it comes to the distinction between author and user (Burk 2010, 47-48) in new media.

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4.1 Electronic literature and digitized narratives

As pointed out by Cronin, “the idea of paratext is no less relevant in the online world, perhaps even more so” (Cronin 2014, xvii). He mentions “metadata elements and tag clouds linked to digital objects, the supplementary materials and datasets that accompany scientific publications, and the extra-textural indicators of quality, trustworthiness and credibility that are built into websites” (Cronin 2014, xvii). Social media indicators as for instance Facebook “likes” or comments are contributions made by users who become more than readers or consumers; they become a kind of co-author.

The question of authorship or co-authorship is not a new one in the digital world. Already the printed book, and especially many of its material paratextual elements involved other producers than the author of the text, but in the digital world this becomes more and more visible. Terms like “collective intelligence” (Jenkins 2006), “collaborative writing” and “produsage” (Bruns 2008) have been used to describe these processes.

In addition to authorship and authorization, the document’s materiality and its boundaries [9] are other questions that have to be raised when discussing the paratext of digital documents, both digitized former analogue documents like printed books and celluloid film and digital born materials.

Birke and Christ (2013) are mapping the field of paratext and digitized narratives. They argue “that as long as a text […] is available in the form of a distinct physical object like the CD-ROM and is, as such, limited in its expanse, the concept of paratext can be applied productively”, while the concept “loses its analytic value at the moment when, on the World Wide Web, context […] moves so close to the text” that paratextual elements become “difficult to isolate and identify” (Birke and Christ 2013, 80).

Distinct physical objects like CD-ROMs and DVDs have many similarities with printed books. We therefore can find some of the same paratextual elements in all of these materials. The authors of course also mention the bonus materials as the “most intriguing paratextual elements specific to the DVD” (Birke and Christ 2013, 72). A wide range of extra materials on DVDs expands the number of paratextual elements that are easily available for the user. We even find examples where a DVD box can contain more than the film-disk, a book with the film’s script or a disk with the sound track of the film are to be found in many special editions.

All these possible extra documents — for instance a book and a CD — have paratextual elements on their own and could be analyzed as separate documents, but they are also functioning as paratextual elements that surround the film and might influence the viewer’s interpretation of the film. As with many other paratextual elements, it is up to the viewer/reader to take these documents into consideration or not.

So even the boundaries of a distinct physical object are not so easy to define as it might appear at first sight. In addition to that, we have, as for printed books, outside materials that can be produced by the film company as for instance an official web page or a fan page on Facebook or other pages produced by fans. These pages often have a short life time and they do not necessarily present completely new or different materials as compared to, for instance, the special edition of the DVD. By spreading the paratextual elements in several media, the visibility is increased and probably more potential viewers will actually see and use these elements either as a threshold into the film or as a guidance for how to understand the film. So even if the document’s materiality in the case of a DVD might seem more stable and easier to distinct than with digital-born documents, paratexts might disappear — as they could in the case of printed books: “If, then, a paratextual element may appear at any time, it may also disappear, definitively or not, by authorial decision or outside intervention or by virtue of the eroding effect of time” (Genette 1997, 6).

In addition to that instability, the document’s boundaries are another issue not so easy to decide on as it seemed at first glance. When it comes to the question of authorization — who is responsible for/who is the author of the different paratextual elements — both the DVD, the book and the web page have official producers, but as in the case of the printed book other than the author/director are responsible for different elements of the paratexts: we might think of a graphic designer, a sound specialist, the authors of the articles about a film, etc.

Many of the digital documents we are surrounded of are digitized, former analogue documents like printed books and celluloid films; according to Bolter this is a remediation where “an older medium is highlighted and re-presented in digital form without apparent irony or critique” (Bolter 2000, 65).

We are all familiar with examples belonging into this category like films on DVD and research articles and books online. There are different initiatives — local in-house initiatives in the beginning and national or international initiatives with common standards like the Project Gutenberg (gutenberg.org), the Internet Archive (archive.org) or Google Books. Many national libraries have also digitized their collections during the last decades. In Norway for instance, we can read books published in Norway before the year 2000 when we are on a Norwegian IP-address [10].

There are different solutions for how the texts are made available to the public. When the books are scanned — as in the case of the Norwegian National Library — the cover and all pages, including empty pages are scanned. As in the physical library we might find different editions of the same text, this also happens in the digital library. In addition to the paratextual elements of the physical book, new elements like the address of the web page appear when the book gets digitized. We also can choose different options for how we want to read/see the text: one page at the time or as double page, we can see the metadata, we can search for words or phrases in the whole text, we can download the reference to our own reference program, we can save the document to our own library, we can share the permanent link on social media, and we can send an e-mail if we have any comments. The web page as part of the National Library of Norway gives authority to these digital documents.

Other examples often produced and used by researchers can be enhanced by, for instance, comments or explanations. In the case of older material, we also can view the facsimile in addition to the printed text.

These examples, especially in cases of digitization without enhancing, are not very different from the distinct physical objects. Each book on nb.no is still an entity, but our search strategies might result in different surroundings, thereby also in different paratexts. As in the case of Amazon or streaming services like Netflix where we get personalized recommendation based on our preferences, we can expect personalized paratexts too.

If we compare the digitized printed books with e-books, there are of course differences in how we can access and read the book. The reader has often the option to choose between downloading the book as a PDF or to read it online. Both options make the reader encounter something that looks like a printed book. In the downloaded PDF version we also can write our comments and highlight text as we could do in a printed book. There are some differences due to the medium: we can choose the size of the page by enlarging or minimizing, we can move easily around in the text by clicking on the hyperlinks in the table of contents, and we can search the text for certain words or phrases. In addition to that we can read the book on different devices. As pointed out by Birke and Christ “elements with navigational functions come to the fore” (2013, 76). But contrary to Birke and Christ who argue that these elements [11] cannot be considered paratextual elements because they belong to the delivery device and not to the book (2013, 76), one could also argue that they are important paratextual elements the same way as for instance the format, or the font, or the paper quality for the printed book, because they imitate what the reader is used to experience and is able to do with a printed book in a digital surrounding.

When it comes to digital-born texts and how a potential reader gets information about a text’s existence and how to get access, search engines become important. As pointes out by van Dijk, search engines perform multiple functions: “They contextualize the work like a bookstore […] but they also ‘sell’ the work as a publisher would, depending on which hits we encounter, obviously” (Dijk 2014, 27).

Because of updates in web browsers, older works are often no longer accessible unless we run or emulate an outdated version of browser software [12]. We might compare this with missing pages in a printed book, but here we have no idea what we can’t get access to and what we miss. We can only read about the work and watch images that others have taken while they were reading it. Here we can find examples of a digital document where the paratext — or the different paratexts — are the only documents visible and available to us today. While printed books could be damaged and disappear, here the text still exists, but we are no longer able to access it. As with other older media formats, we not only need the document, but also the right devices to access the content.

Digital documents are today usually combining text with image (also moving images) and/or sound, the use of colors and fonts is often striking. Genette’s concept of the paratext has proved useful in the analysis of these non-textual elements, and the scale of objects analyzed includes not only narratives in book format, but also other media like video games, YouTube, and Mashup (Desrochers and Apollon 2014).

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4.2. Film and television

As pointed out by Georg Stanitzek “[i]n film studies the potential of the paratext concept was recognized very quickly, namely, as both a practical and a necessary addition to the film semiotic notion of the text” (2005, 36). Films have many of the same paratextual elements as books that can be found in a film’s opening and closing credits, like title, subtitle, and the names of the people involved in the production. In addition to a book’s epitextual elements, films also have posters, trailers, and stills that can be observed and analyzed as “media-specific variants” (Stanitzek 2005, 36).

When analyzing the paratext of a film, the importance of different media platforms like cinema, DVD and television becomes visible and necessary to notice because they highlight the fact that elements of the paratext can change position at any time. Elements of the epitext like a film trailer or conversations with the film maker or the actors can become extra material on a DVD, thus getting spatially closer to the film text, turning into pertitextual elements. The film poster is often used as the DVD’s cover, consisting of many of the same elements like a book cover. For television, and especially in private television, “logos, trailers, teasers, and appetizers play a pivotal role in making flow the ideal organizational principle of television programming processes” (Stanitzek 2005, 38).

An important element in many of the discussions about paratext is the question of where to draw the line between the paratext and the film. By watching US TV shows such as The Simpsons or special DVD releases such as The Lord of the Rings, Jonathan Gray goes a step further and also explores toys, video games, advertising campaigns, websites with audience discussions, and the like as paratexts (cf. Gray 2010, 4) and their significance for the interpretation of the film or television series.

Today we could add that more and more films and TV series have their own web pages in addition to their social media appearance. Different paratextual elements like interviews with actors and film maker, stills from the set, reviews etc. are collected and made available for the audience, sometimes the audience also is encouraged to participate by posting images or answering questions. Gray distinguishes between “entryway paratexts” and “in medias res paratexts” (2010, 23) where the former tries to control the viewer’s entrance to the media product like trailers, “coming soon” and the like, and the latter appears “during” or “after” viewing. As already pointed to by Genette, elements of the paratext establish a genre contract with the reader for how to read a text (cf. Genette 1997, 41). Gray observes the same when it comes to establish truthfulness and claim authenticity for the stories told (Gray 2010, 83).

The premiere of a film or a TV series is today often accompanied by many other products in different media, thereby trying to establish a media event that makes the audience wants to be part of. The terms “transmedia narratives”, “complex TV”, and “cross-media derivatives” (Pesce and Noto 2016, 1) describe the phenomenon of a wide range of by-products like real-time tweeting, online commentaries, pop-up ads, different forms of merchandise, and announcements that are often short-lived or ephemeral. Thus, the question of what is central and what is peripheral, what has to be taken into consideration when analyzing a media text has become more difficult to answer. The tension between ephemera and permanence is not a new one, but has become more exposed for digital media. How to collect these paratextual elements, how to archive and how to make them available for future research are important issues to discuss. The “misunderstanding of social and political meaning of media artifacts for the audiences that concretely used them” (Pesce and Noto 2016, 3) can be problematic.

For the study of silent films and the exhibition practices during the silent era, the concept of the paratext can also include intertitles, film music, and the surrounding program as important elements that give us an idea of how a film has been exhibited at the time of its premiere and afterwards (cf. Skare 2016).

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4.3 Computer games and gaming

According to Carter (2015), Mia Consalvo was the first to introduce the concept of paratext to game studies with her monograph Cheating: Gaining Advantage in Videogames (2007), while Rockenberger mentions Lunenfeld (2000) and Jones (2008) beside Consalvo as the most prominent contributions to the field (Rockenberger 2015, 253).

Cheating is not about individual games and their paratexts, “but the emergent surrounding industries that transcend individual games, and the manner in which they have been corporatized and are now integral to the contemporary game industry” (Carter 2015, 314). Consalvo focuses on the history, content, function, and effect of printed game magazines and licensed strategy guides, as well as cheating devices or modchips that are all considered “parts of the paratext” (2007, 76). By instructing the player and helping them to learn how to play, the paratext serves “a specific role in gaming culture and for gaming capital, where the “gaming capital is paratext itself” (Consalvo 2007, 22).

Carter discusses “the crucial role” (Carter 2015, 311) of propaganda in one concrete game, EVE online. Carter argues that this propaganda is a form of paratext “that emerges from within the game as part of play, rather than a peripheral industry that surrounds it” (Carter 2015, 311). The term “emitext” is proposed by Carter because the relationship between the paratext and a designed game is much more dynamic than for more or less static books. According to Carter “paratexts are typically referred to as a form of ‘external discource’”, while emitexts have “no strict spatial relationship to the game and complex, dynamic levels of authority and illocutionary force” (Carter 2015, 337-338).

Rockenberger points to the questionable use of Genette’s concept in new media studies in general and in video game studies in particular and argues that “the terminology in this field of research is rather vaguely connected to, and sometimes even completely detached from, Genette’s definition” (2014, 252). Paratext, is according to Rockenberger, “used as a vague umbrella term with an extremely broad extension” (2015, 253). As Birke and Christ (2013) asked for digital narratives, also Rockenberger is concerned about where to draw the line between introduction and prologue and asks where the game actually begins (259). What belongs to the game and what does not; where do we draw the line between the game and its surroundings? This is an important question, because the elements of paratext can become numerous over time and it can be difficult to know what to include and what to ignore. Genette makes the question whether “the author or one of his associates accepts responsibility” (1997, 9) for the paratext an important criterion, but the focus on the author and his associates can ignore important elements, in some cases even the cover design of a book. As pointed out by Rockenberger, the idea that the author controls every aspect of the production is “already empirically inappropriate for the domain of print culture, and even more inapplicable to the new media” (268).

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4.4 Library and information science

Genette’s concept of the paratext focuses foremost on a document’s material elements and how these relate to the context and the interpretation of documents; thus, allowing a complementary approach (cf. Skare 2009) to document analysis. Paratextual elements will often be the first encounter with a document for a potential reader, but also for a librarian. Paratexts are therefore not only thresholds of interpretation but constitute also thresholds of access (Paling 2002). In recent years researchers have also focused on the peritext in academic publishing, and the study of book jackets as access points and thus as part of library practices has been paid attention to. Book covers are important when it comes to exhibitions, but also as a reader’s advisory tool (see Pecoskie and Desrochers 2013). When the importance of paratextual elements for instance on the book cover are recognized, the advantages and disadvantages of a ‘mute’ but long shelf life-library binding have to be weighted for and against the often-shorter lived original binding where the cover’s (or the dust jacket’s) “most obvious function […] is to attract attention” (Genette 1997, 28), but also to give the potential reader an idea of the book’s content.

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4.4.1 Knowledge organization

Many of the peritextual elements described by Genette have a natural place in library work and → knowledge organization. As pointed out by Paling, “[t]he table of contents from Paratexts reads like a list of bibliographic elements: formats, series, title pages, printings, and other editorial and publishing devices” (Paling 2002, 140). Andersen (2002) shows how the bibliographic record “exploits some of the paratexts of a work in order to make it present and searchable” and argues “that the bibliographic record is a kind of meta-paratext” (55). The same way as a potential reader of a novel is first confronted with its paratextual elements, the bibliographic record and the included paratextual elements will be important in an information retrieval situation providing subject access points (see Hjørland and Kyllesbech Nielsen 2001). Overall, the concept of paratext in knowledge organization is relevant in considering the issues of metadata (Mayernik in press).

Genette’s study is concerned with novels, therefore he is not discussing paratextual elements found in academic genres like abstract, key words, table of contents, references, and index. Here we have examples where paratextual elements also are providing access points for document retrieval, helping the reader to identify relevant documents.


Table 1: Elements of the paratext and the kind of information provided
Title and Subtitle Subject; content; genre
Author’s Name and Affiliation Research area; can be associated with authority and quality
Publisher Research area; authority; quality
Journal name Topic; subject
Edition Authority; quality
Key words Topic; research area; method and theory
Reference list Cognitive authority
Index Aboutness; cognitive authority
Dedication Cognitive authority
Abstract/blurb/the please-insert Aboutness; subject; content
Format, series, binding Quality, sometimes also about the topic
Cover design (images, colors, typography, paper quality) Aboutness, quality
Table of contents Aboutness
Preface Aboutness, contextual information, statement of intent

Most of the paratextual elements inform about the subject or the content of a given document, but can also indicate the authority and truthfulness of the producer, thus also indicating the quality of a document. But, as pointed out by Hjørland and Kyllesbech Nielsen “[p]oor titles, bad indexing, and in general poor SAPs [subject access points] are those that express unimportant (or perhaps even false) information about a given document” (2001, 263).

If we consider paratextual elements given by the producer (author, publisher, designer) ‘primary’; elements added by indexers like → classification codes and subject headings can also be considered paratextual elements based on an interpretation of the document (both its ‘primary’ paratextual elements and its content). Paling describes the cataloguing process as belonging to the paratext where librarians as third parties select the descriptors to be assigned to a book, thus paratextual elements becoming thresholds of access. Hjørland and Kyllesbech Nielsen point to the fact that indexers are often “influenced by the title, the abstract, and other access points already given”. “[T]he value-added services provided by classifiers, indexers, and abstractors are not always independent interpretations of a document’s subjects” (2001, 283).

Other documents surrounding the one in question, like articles in either a printed journal or online, can also function as paratext, informing the potential reader about the content and its relevance for one’s research question. The citation of a work could also be considered an element of the paratext, thus becoming important in → citation analysis and bibliometric studies as demonstrated by De Bellis (2009).

The importance of subject headings chosen by cataloguers is discussed by Veros (2015). Veros uses the case of romance fiction novels in Australian libraries and shows that the missing catalogue record for books in this genre leads to problems for the potential readers. Without any catalogue record, “the text cannot be discovered” (Veros 2015, 7) by the potential reader. Paratextual elements are therefore not only necessary to present a text to its potential readers, they are also essential in order to make a document visible and thus accessible.

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5. Conclusion

Paratextual elements will often be the first encounter with a document, both for the potential reader/viewer and for the librarian/information professional as mediator. Our assumptions about a document’s content, but also about its quality and trustworthiness depend on our interpretation of the paratextual elements we recognize. To analyze what happens to the elements of the paratext when a text is translated into another language or is remediated into other formats like a novel into a film or game, but also from printed into electronic text, will give the information professional important knowledge not only about the documents in question, but also about the cultural and social context and will help to pair the right reader/viewer with the right text.

Genette’s concept has proven to be productive in other fields than literary studies. In addition to the mentioned areas, scholars have studied the paratext of newspapers (Frandsen 1991) and the importance of paratexts in the scholarly archive (Dalgaard 2001). Also, museum studies (e.g. Christensen 2011; Schall 2014), translation analysis (e.g. Pellatt 2013), pedagogy and reading studies (e.g. Apperley and Beavis 2011; Mangen and Kuiken 2014), and the field of marketing and advertising have started to apply the concept. The application of the paratext notion to new media and especially to digital media and thus new forms for text production and consumption has led to an increased focus on media specificity, authoring functions and the alteration of reading habits.

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Thanks to two anonymous reviewers for constructive feedback.

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1. The five types of relationship are: intertextuality, paratextuality, metatextuality, hypertextuality, and architextuality. It is important to notice that Genette’s terminology is occasionally not in accordance with other critics.

2. The introduction had been translated into English earlier and was published in New Literary History in 1991 (Genette and Maclean 1991). Already in 1988, the English version of a lecture given by Genette at the University of Chicago was published in Critical Inquiry (Genette and Crampé 1988). The script of the lecture was later included as a chapter about titles in Seuils (Paris, 1987).

3. Rockenberger distinguishes “between at least sixteen functions that paratexts might fulfill in media” (2015, 262-263): referential, self-referential, ornamental, generic, meta-communicative, pragmatic, informative, staging, ideological, hermeneutical, evaluative, commercial, legal, pedagogical, instructive/operational, and personalization.

4. Genette includes for instance intertitles and notes in his analysis of the paratext; elements that are part of the text but are not necessary to read and understand the text.

5. Cf. the subtitle of the German translation: Das Buch vom Beiwerk des Buches.

6. A special issue of Poétique was devoted to essays on the paratext by members of a seminar at the École des Hautes Études in Paris in 1987. In later years the concept is often used to analyze the relationship between text and image (both inside the text and on the book cover, cf. Skare 2018) or texts where typographical choices are important (cf. Graulund 2006: “visual text”).

7. Most of the film studies using Genette’s concept are written in German. For an overview of this research in English see Klecker 2015.

8. See also Critical Studies in Media Communication vol. 34 (2017), no. 2. This issue presents under the title “Paratexts, Promos, and Publicity” a range of articles that discuss “paratexts and paratextual theory intervening” (101) in different areas of media and communication studies.

9. See Birke and Christ (2013): 68 where these three fields of debate are pointed out as relevant to digitized documents.

10. The digitizing process at the Norwegian National Library consists of three steps: scanning, structure analysis and post-processing. For an explanation of the process see https://www.nb.no/en/digitizing-at-the-national-library/, accessed 21.5.2019.

11. Birke and Christ are using the five main navigation menus available on the 2011 Kindle as an example to illustrate their point and conclude: “As with the front matter, paratextual elements become spatially separated from what may be considered the ‘unified object’ of the text, the e-book’s data file. The menus circumscribe the ways in which readers can access and navigate the different parts of the text; the degree to which this has an interpretative function again depends on individual cases” (2013, 77).

12. For instance, Talan Memmott’s Lexia to Perplexia (2000). Cf. Skare (2019) for a discussion of this example.

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Version 1.0, published 2020-02-13
Article category: Document parts and structure (until 2022-02-24 Core concepts)

This article (version 1.0) is also published in Knowledge Organization. How to cite it:
Skare, Roswitha. 2020. “Paratext”. Knowledge Organization 47, no. 6: 511-519. Also available in ISKO Encyclopedia of Knowledge Organization, eds. Birger Hjørland and Claudio Gnoli, https://www.isko.org/cyclo/paratext

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