Reading between the lines: How paratexts shape readers’ interaction with a transmedia narrative

Abstract (in English): 

My discussion presents a paratext-based model for analysis of transmedia projects that I offer in
the chapter “Thresholds of Transmedia Storytelling: Applying Gérard Genette’s Paratextual Theory to The 39 Clues Series for Young Readers,” in the upcoming book Examining Paratextual Theory and Its Applications in Digital Culture. This chapter builds on Genette’s analysis in order to offer a model for examining how various paratexts mediate the reader’s interaction with the storyworld of a transmedia narrative. This presentation, in turn, focuses on the framework presented in the chapter, but with an eye toward how the chapter’s revised paratextual model enables examination and negotiation of the tension between the passive reader that Genette posits and the active reader a transmedia project requires. On the one hand, the paratexts of a transmedia project offer the reader a myriad of thresholds into a story, requiring interactive and sophisticated interpretive practices in order to build a “big picture” understanding of the narrative world. On the other hand, these expansive and varied paratexts also, to some degree, foreclose on the reader’s interpretive freedom by filling in gaps that might be left up to the reader’s imagination with a “correct” version of events or ideas, which brings us back to Genette’s construction of the paratext’s essential function as authoritatively guiding the reader’s interpretations. How, then, do paratexts of a transmedia project both demand and limit imaginative participatory reading through emphasizing and subverting an officially sanctioned version of the narrative? In this presentation, I combine paratextual analysis of a transmedia project with Wolfgang Iser’s theory of interaction between text and reader in order to begin to examine how transmedia storytelling constructs readers and reading practices, drawing on Scholastic, Inc.’s The 39 Clues in order to offer specific illustrations.

(Source: Author's Abstract)

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Alvaro Seica