Reading at the Thresholds of Book Covers and Opening Screens

Critical Writing
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In this article I relate Gérard Genette’s paratext theory Paratexts: Thresholds of Interpretation (1997) that was originally published in French as Seuils in 1987 to theories that relate to what presumably constitutes narrative beginnings (Kellman; Richardson; Rabinowitz). Genette’s theory considers different liminal devices as that which “guide a reader’s reading” such as for example a book cover. Among other’s, I explore reader comments that reflect on their reading experience of book covers expressed in social media environments such as and the blogosphere. I propose that the book cover potentially foreshadows it’s content proleptically (Genette) and in a centripetal (McCracken) notion draws to a book’s content. Two examplary “openings” as thresholds to a narrative are considered: the book cover of the paper-based publication Borgerligt tusmørke by Simon Fruelund and Voyage into the Unkown (Roderick Coover), a work of literature published in programmable media. Based on what Anette Retsch identifies as graphostylistic elements that signal a text’s beginning, the latter is choosen based on it’s graphostylistic elements presented on the opening screen to the work. Opening screens to works of electronic literature which precede a work function as book covers that too provide paratextual elements from which a reader’s reading as envisoned by Genette is guided literally by way of navigation – straight into a narrative’s beginning.

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Patricia Tomaszek