Poetics – Marketing – Formal Concession? The Reception of Peritexts in Canonical Works

Peritexts (according to Gérard Genette 1987) are paratexts that accompany a text from within, such as titles and subtitles, prefaces or postfaces, acknowledgements, dedications, mottos, tables of contents, or intertitles. They serve as mediators between the main text and its recipients by installing a “principle of stimulating intensity-effects” (Erich Kleinschmidt 2008). Peritexts can be used to pursue multiple purposes. However, they have a relatively rigid formal structure due to their dependence on the main text, and therefore their range of functions and messages is limited.

But what impact does the actual reception of peritexts have? Under which circumstances are they taken as aesthetic keys to the main text, as parapoetics, so to speak, or skipped and ignored as an (allegedly) mere formal convention? When are they regarded as marketing tools, strategically applied to form an author’s image, or as a means for Werkpolitik (term by Steffen Martus, 2007)? Do certain peritextual elements generally get more attention—and can there be types determined that, due to particular structural and stylistic elements, are noticed and read more often than others?

The research project focused on canonical works in German literature to establish when and how such perceptional ‘offerings’ of peritexts are detected and are themselves part of the canonizing processes. At the core of the project was their perception by academic research, supplemented by (and distinguished from) journalistic reviews.

Program funding through the Federal Ministry of Education and Research (BMBF) 2017–2019
Head researcher(s): Hannah Markus

Publications

  • “ ‘Für Sie, mon Amour, dieses Gedicht noch einmal.’ Paul Celans Widmungspraxis,” in: Weimarer Beiträge 65/2 (2019), 224–240
  • “Das ‘Ärgernis Form’ als Engagement. Ilse Aichingers Lyrik der 1950er Jahre,” in: Günter Häntzschel, Sven Hanuschek, Ulrike Leuschner (eds.), treibhaus. Jahrbuch für die Literatur der fünfziger Jahre 13 (2017), 21–36