, Volume 37, Issue 1, pp 181-189
Date: 07 Apr 2010

Perpetually Beginning Until the End of the Fair: The paratextual poetics of serialised novels

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Abstract

Gérard Genette’s study of paratext, a primarily synchronic and taxonomic approach, is predicated upon the assumption that there is a neat border between what we can classify as text and the elements we can group together under the heading of paratext. The purpose of this paper is to demonstrate that the relationship between these two elements is more complicated than Genette suggests. Not only is the term paratext itself saddled with a potentially limitless number of elements, but the way that these elements interact with texts cannot be reduced to a uniform border that applies in all cases. Can we continue to talk about paratext once we have acknowledged its potentially limitless proliferation and the fuzzy border it shares with text; and if so, how does this affect the way we talk about text? This paper will suggest that to answer these questions we should refocus the concept of paratext from a synchronic to a diachronic approach. Such an approach, moving away from a pure taxonomy of spatially oriented categories, enables us to examine the way that literary works are represented over time. By focusing on Victorian serialised fiction, a form of the novel preoccupied with the temporal framework of its own production, it is possible to explore the complex relationship between text and paratext. At the same time, by examining this relationship in the context of different ideas of duration, such as the notions of kairos and chronos used by Frank Kermode, this paper will suggest a theoretical framework for relating an understanding of text and paratext to the figure of the author.