The Particularity of Paratext

By Kristopher A. Nelson
in March 2007

200 words / 1 min.
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It is important to realize that paratext and other codes and signs in the work do not merely exist (though they may occupy many levels of intentionality, from completely unintentional on the part of the author but intended by the editor to intentional on the part of the author to unintended by everyone involved): they […]


Note: this post is from 2007. Evaluate with care and in light of later events.

It is important to realize that paratext and other codes and signs in the work do not merely exist (though they may occupy many levels of intentionality, from completely unintentional on the part of the author but intended by the editor to intentional on the part of the author to unintended by everyone involved): they are created by someone, in particular circumstances, for particular reasons. Marginalia written by readers may in turn become paratext for later readers (or for the original reader); introductions may be written by editors or authors; fonts may arise from compositors or may be requested by authors. But their impact is undeniable: it is not at all the same to read Borges’ “Ruinas circulares” as a story in a (rather pretty) 1956 edition of Ficciones, as to read it as “Circular Ruins” in the English-language “Everyman’s Library” edition of Alfred A. Knopf, in 1993, as to read it situated amongst other stories in a book made for “intermediate or advanced students.” Each version includes elements not present in the “original” book (although the “content” remains always the same)—if we can even identify an original.

See: A Pretext for Writing.