Plotting BSECS Adventures…

We are delighted that the Eighteenth-Century Paratext Research Network will be taking not one but two panels to the British Society for Eighteenth-Century Studies (BSECS) annual conference in January! It’s been a pleasure to organise both panels, and we’re very excited to learn more about the speakers and their research.

The first panel will examine a range of paratextual features present in a variety of printed forms. Visual paratext will be considered, beginning with Peter Forsaith’s investigation of portrait prints in the Arminian/Methodist Magazine (published from 1778); this will address the juxtaposition of the images with the Magazine’s text, as well as examine these paratextual elements as part of the material culture of religion. Next up Will Burgess will speak on the use of prefatory material in printed catalogues and public museums, focusing on the way in which paratext serves as a means of unifying a heterogeneous assemblage of objects, mediating their identities and those of their collectors, owners and origins into a single entity. Liz Potter will then present the panel’s final paper, considering the role of the frontispiece in representing identity and framing discourse in the biography of John Jea, The Life, History, and Unparallelled Sufferings of John Jea, the African Preacher (1811).

In the second panel, to be chaired by Ellen Brewster, the focus will be on the presence and function of prefatory material in a range of textual forms. Of particular interest will be exploring the way in which prefatory paratext frames the reader’s experience of the ensuing text. Marta Kvande will open the session with an investigation of the way in which dedications, prefatory poems, addresses to the reader, and other prefaces operate in Restoration fiction, drawing on statistical data she has collected to analyse the creation of authority structures through paratextual patterns. This will be followed by Seán William’s examination of the function of the preface across eighteenth-century German writing, which will look in particular on the influence of German-Romanticism on the development of paratext and paratextual scholarship. This panel will then conclude with yours truly, exploring the perceived identity of the pre-chapter epigraph, using both statistical and bibliographic data to disrupt stereotypical presumptions of the device as a way of self-identifying canonical authors in Gothic prose fiction.

If you’re planning to be at the BSECS conference, we’d love to see you there!

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