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, motti, tables of contents, or intertitles. They serve as mediators between the main text and its recipients by installing a »principle of intensely stimulating 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 impacts 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 concession? 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 considered more often than others?

The research project focuses on canonical works in German literature from the Sattelzeit onwards (term by Reinhart Kosselleck 1972) to establish when and how such perceptional ›offers‹ of peritexts are detected and are themselves made part of canonising processes. At the core of the project is their perception by academic research, supplemented (and possibly distinguished) by journalist reviews.

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