Paratexts

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In literature, paratextual elements have traditionally acted as thresholds between what is outside of the text and the text itself. They underline the passage from an extradiegetic level to a diegetic level and, ultimately, in the case of literature, from reality to fiction. Although this model has been articulated to apply to paper publishing, the digital sphere has demonstrated the tendency to blur it more and more. On the web, everything is text, or, to be more specific, there is on the web a little text and an enormous amount of paratexts. It is indeed the paratexts that usually play an operational role: paratexts are the devices that allow us to act (change of address, page, liking content, etc.). In other words, the paratexts become the interface, a place of action, a world, or, even better, the world where we act. The paratexts then become an environment, our environment.

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The status of the Author in Digital Era (FRQSC)

Questions on the status of the author in digital era constitute a major social issue that concerns communities of writers and readers. Since authors are the authority, how can we rethink the process of validation and legitimization of literary contents published online today?

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Marcello Vitali-Rosati, « Paratexte numérique : la fin de la distinction entre réalité et fiction? », Cahiers ReMix, vol. 1 / 5, 2015.

L’idée que je voudrais essayer d’explorer est la suivante: les éléments paratextuels ont une fonction de seuil entre le hors-texte et le texte; par ce biais, ils nous permettent aussi le passage entre le niveau extradiégétique et le niveau diégétique, et, finalement, dans le cas de la littérature, entre réalité et fiction. Si ce modèle est assez défini dans le cas de l’édition papier, l’espace numérique a tendance à le rendre de plus en plus flou. Dans le Web, tout est texte et/ou paratexte; le même élément textuel (une adresse URL, par exemple) peut servir pour déclarer un passage à la fiction ou pour nous faire acheter quelque chose sur un site de ventes en ligne, ou encore pour regarder la météo ou pour gérer notre compte en banque.

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Marcello Vitali-Rosati, « Digital Paratext. Editorialization and the very death of the author », in Examining Paratextual Theory and its Applications in Digital Culture, IGI Global, Hershey, Nadine Desrochers and Daniel Apollon, 2014, p. 110‑127.

As shown by different scholars, the idea of “author” is not absolute or necessary. On the contrary, it came to life as an answer to the very practical needs of an emerging print technology in search of an economic model of its own. In this context, and according to the criticism of the notion of “author” made during the 1960–70s (in particular by Barthes and Foucault), it would only be natural to consider the idea of the author being dead as a global claim accepted by all scholars. Yet this is not the case, because, as Rose suggests, the idea of “author” and the derived notion of copyright are still too important in our culture to be abandoned. But why such an attachment to the idea of “author”? The hypothesis on which this chapter is based is that the theory of the death of the author—developed in texts such as What is an Author? by Michel Foucault and The Death of the Author by Roland Barthes—did not provide the conditions for a shift towards a world without authors because of its inherent lack of concrete editorial practices different from the existing ones. In recent years, the birth and diffusion of the Web have allowed the concrete development of a different way of interpreting the authorial function, thanks to new editorial practices—which will be named “editorialization devices” in this chapter. Thus, what was inconceivable for Rose in 1993 is possible today because of the emergence of digital technology—and in particular, the Web.

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