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Paratextual Navigation as a Research Method: Fan Fiction Archives and Reader Instructions
Umeå University, Faculty of Arts, Department of language studies.ORCID iD: 0000-0001-5265-6421
2016 (English)In: Research Methods for Reading Digital Data in the Digital Humanities / [ed] Gabriele Griffin & Matt Hayler, Edinburgh: Edinburgh University Press, 2016, 51-71 p.Chapter in book (Refereed)
Abstract [en]

In recent years, several critics have appropriated and extended Gérard Genette’s delineation of the paratext (1987; 1997) in analyses of media specificity, of authoring functions, and of altered reading habits following new modes of textual production. This chapter utilizes the notion of the paratext as a means of addressing how to research particular online texts. It provides an account of one way of conducting such research by focusing on websites that archive fan fiction: online-published, most often pseudonymously authored stories which take a pre-existing fiction as a starting point, and on a few examples stories. It speaks to how Genette’s traditional, narratological delineation can be usefully expanded and modified to account for particular methodological challenges when researching the virtual environments and when approaching isolated works within them. In Genette’s definition, the paratext constitutes “a threshold … that offers the world at large the possibility of either stepping inside or turning back” (Paratexts 2). Despite the seeming concreteness of the threshold image he later goes on to specify that “‘[t]he paratext,’ properly speaking, does not exist; rather, one chooses to account in these terms for a certain number of practices and effects, for reasons of method and effectiveness” (Paratexts 343). Online publishing entails a particular form of thresholds with websites, online archives, fanfic-specific genres, categorizations and tags representing specific aspects of the paratext. The choice of publication venue, filing options at the selected site, and a host of more or less descriptive labels attached to the work thus signal what type of text form we are concerned with and what genre(s) it belongs to: preliminary indications for how it is to be approached and giving visitors to the sites options to either pursue reading the fanfic, or turn elsewhere. A sustained analysis of different paratextual functions, structuring the site as well as the presentation of fiction, thus profitably accounts for the particularity of the fanfic text form, as well as of the material mediation of the text. 

Place, publisher, year, edition, pages
Edinburgh: Edinburgh University Press, 2016. 51-71 p.
Keyword [en]
paratext, fan fiction, archives, Digital Humanities, navigational function, commercial function, interpretive function
National Category
Media Studies
Research subject
medie- och kommunikationsvetenskap
URN: urn:nbn:se:umu:diva-118016ISBN: 9781474409612OAI: diva2:910654
Available from: 2016-03-09 Created: 2016-03-09 Last updated: 2016-03-09

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