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Paratext is a term for all added written material included in a book that does not count as the primary narrative.



Blurbs, prefaces, authorial commentary, reviews and illustrations all qualify as paratext, which is a term coined by Gerard Genette. Part of the book and yet not part of the main narrative, paratext acts on us as readers in a way that influences how we read and interpret the main text. An author's commentary or a powerful illustration can especially influence interpretation.


"To add a word on the topography of the romance in answer to queries, unimportant as the point may be. The mansion called 'Endelstow House' is to a large degree really existent, though it has to be looked for at a spot several miles south of its supposed site. The church, too, of the story was made to be more open to the ocean than is its original."

Thomas Hardy, June 1912, POSTSCRIPT to A Pair of Blue Eyes

Critical Debates

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Related Terms

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Abbot, H. Porter. The Cambridge Introduction to Narrative.

Genette, Gerard. Paratexts: Thresholds of Interpretation.

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