Session Abstract: This panel brings into dialogue studies of different regions of Asia in order to suggest ways to refine, expand, and modify the concept of the paratext. As defined by Genette, “paratext” refers to elements that frame a main text, such as titles, author names, and prefaces. Collectively, our papers argue that the study of paratexts offers a productive avenue for investigating mechanisms of cultural adaptation, revealing how historical actors, from imperial courts to educated non-elites, reshaped existing cultural products as they migrated across time and space.
By bringing together book history, comparative literature, social history, and digital humanities, our panel illuminates from multiple angles the transformative function of paratexts. Much like the perpetual repackaging of commercial products, alterations to paratexts impose new meanings. Du’s paper redefines what constitutes paratexts in early literature, identifying new sources for understanding Han era reinterpretations of pre-imperial writings. Duffy’s study, by juxtaposing medieval Chinese and Japanese prefaces associated with seasonal festival banquets, uncovers how this genre negotiated ritual dynamics in their respective courts. Smith, in identifying paratextual elements in the Rigveda, proposes a model of the paratext adapted for oral literatures. Through digital analysis of prefatory materials, Yoo and Lee shed light on the interactions between state, individuals, local identities in the Chosŏn reception of Chinese poetry.
To maximize engagement with the audience, materials will be made available online (https://paratextsacrossasia.cargo.site/), where the public can post questions and comments. Concise presentations and the discussant’s response will be followed by interaction with our live and virtual audience.
Paper Presenter: Heng Du – University of Arizona
Paper Presenter: Kay Duffy – University of British Columbia
Paper Presenter: Caley C. Smith – University of Washington
Paper Presenter: Jamie Jungmin Yoo – Yonsei University
Co-author: Changhee Lee – Korea University