Paratexts: Fictional Footnotes, Imagined Indexes

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Researcher: Jeremy Douglass

What happens when narrative breaks the bounds of its conventional container, and bits of the story end up where they oughtn't?

This course explores the use footnotes and indexes for storytelling. These traditionally ancillary information structures, or paratexts, have been used in imaginative ways since some of the earliest experiments with the form of the novel (e.g. Sterne's "Tristram Shandy"). Focusing on contemporary fiction and new media, we will explore texts in both texts in which the 'para' plays equal part (e.g. the footnotes and index of Nabokov's "Pale Fire") and those in which the 'para' becomes primary (e.g. Ballard's index-story "The Index" and his "Notes Towards a Mental Breakdown" comprised of footnotes to a single sentence.)

We conclude by applying our new understandings of paratextual narrative to the new media categories of hypertext fiction and interactive fiction. What happens when narrative and notation merge, blend, and become one and the same?