Publishing without a Publisher's Peritext: Electronic Literature, the Web, and Paratextual Integrity

Abstract (in English): 

With the book-based paratext theory Paratext: Thresholds of Interpretation (1987/1997), literary scholar Gérard Genette provides a tool that allows to examine how books ensure the text’s presence in the world, its “reception” and consumption (Genette 1).

It is through a publisher’s peritext that appears on the spine, front and back cover, and a book’s title pages that provide the book’s title, author name, publisher, and year of publication, that that we can identify and communicate a work. The book market highly relies on a publication’s peritext that forms a publications bibliographic data in post-processing; it is also of relevance in libraries. Obviously, in book culture, the publishing apparatus is well established. This is different in the field of electronic literature, due to the way the field evolved through its technological means of production and publication. Here, works are mostly self-published (Koskimaa, Eskelinen, di Rosario) on authors’ web sites and often re-published in multiple venues on the Web (such as online journals, or digital collections (Electronic Literature Collection I and II), and anthologies (ELMCIP Anthology of European Electronic Literature).

Considering e-lit’s particular publication situation and the various paratextual means the Web provides, the following questions emerge: how do e-lit authors make their works paratextually present? Is their practice of paratextual presentation indeed sufficient for post-processing?

This presentation builds on a study of nine works in which some of the following cases occurred in the examination of the work’s title pages: some works do not present the author’s name and title, in other cases, the year of publication is missing. To be sure, these omissions create problems for post-processing works for example in databases, libraries, scholarly communication, and also archiving. How can such bibliographic failures occur? The answer lies in what I call “paratextual integrity” that was often missing in my study-sample of works of electronic literature. As my study of the works’ title pages, along with the author’s home pages show, the reasons lie in the Web's architecture and how authors present their creative works both within their home page and within the self-published work.

By considering works of electronic literature through Genette’s book-based paratext theory I extend Genette’ss notions towards web-based publications and, based on the results of my study, make recommendations as to how an author's work can, based on proper use of the Web's architecture and paratext, indeed be “seen”, communicated, and captured in post-processing.

(Source: ELO 2015 Conference Catalog)

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Hannah Ackermans