The Context of Paratext: A Bibliometric Study of the Citation Contexts of Gérard Genette's Texts

The Context of Paratext: A Bibliometric Study of the Citation Contexts of Gérard Genette's Texts

Fredrik Åström (Lund University, Sweden)
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-4666-6002-1.ch001
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Based on two sets of data consisting of research articles from Web of Science, analyses were made on articles citing Genette and articles using the paratext concept. The purpose was to investigate the context in which the paratext concept is used and Genette is cited by analyzing the journals and research fields in which the articles were published, the literature these articles are based on, and the terminology used in the articles. This chapter presents the results, which show both close connections and similarities in citation patterns, namely, to literature studies and to the humanities in general. It is also possible to see signs of an increased interest in digital media and a widening of cultural expressions studied within the realm of the humanities, such as computer games, while Genette and paratextual theories are used to a much lesser extent in the social sciences. In addition to the empirical study, the relation between paratext studies and bibliometrics is briefly discussed.
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Gérard Genette (1997) suggested analyzing paratext (i.e., elements related to a document not being the core of the text in itself, but still being an essential part of both the document per se and our perception and use of it) as a means for understanding documents and how we gain access to them. But how have Genette’s ideas and the paratext concept been used by other scholars; and which paratextual elements, if any, can be used in the analysis?

This chapter sets out to analyze paratextual elements such as bibliographic metadata and references through bibliometric analyses—that is, quantitative analyses of texts and text representations—to study the texts and contexts in which Genette’s texts and the paratext concept are used. The use of Genette’s ideas and paratextual theories is, in this case, represented by scholarly journal articles either citing texts by Genette or using the term paratext. And by analyzing different kinds of metadata, we can identify different characteristics of some of the scholarly contexts in which these ideas and theories are used. In this chapter, these contexts are analyzed in terms of how these ideas have been used over time, in what languages texts using these theories have been published, and in what research fields these ideas and theories can be found. The scholarly context in terms of research topic, and in conjunction with what other cited authors Genette’s ideas and paratextual theories are being used, is also investigated in this chapter. Apart from providing us with insight into how Genette’s ideas and paratextual theories have influenced scholarly activities in different contexts, it gives us an opportunity to reflect on the extent to which we can talk about these various contextual aspects as a reflection of scholarly impact and of the transfer of ideas into different scholarly communities.

In addition to describing the context of the articles using Genette’s ideas and the paratext concept, this study provides an opportunity to briefly discuss the extent to which the use of bibliometric analyses of different characteristics of documents and links between documents can be seen as a strategy for empirically analyzing paratext. This study also takes a look at the extent to which the concept of paratextual elements can be said to include not only bibliographic metadata and the references and citations, for instance, but also the actual documents that create links to the texts that are the point of origin for our analyses.

The influence of French theorists on American academia in general has been investigated in depth by Cussett (2008) and the impact of French theory on the library and information science (LIS) field has been analyzed by Cronin and Meho (2009) through a bibliometric analysis. “French theorists” should be understood as the reception and impact of French post-structuralist philosophers and theorists in the United States and in LIS, rather than as individuals or as some kind of movement, per se. Both these studies are conducted from a macro-perspective, and although Cussett also discusses individual theorists, Genette is only mentioned in passing. An approach for investigating the impact and context of humanities research through analyses of individual authors and texts was suggested by Hammarfelt (2011), who used analyses of the impact of Walter Benjamin and his book Illuminations as an example. More specifically, bibliometric studies influenced by paratextual theories have primarily focused on analyzing acknowledgments and blurbs (Cronin & Franks, 2006; Cronin & La Barre, 2005; Salager-Meyer, Alcaraz-Ariza, Luzardo Briceño, & Jabbour, 2012).

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