Paratexts and Canonical Thresholds: Special issue, Shakespeare's Changing Canon, ed. Emma Smith

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This essay investigates the liminal place in the canon of “Shakespeare’s paratexts”, emphasizing the importance of recent work on prefatory and terminal materials to Shakespeare’s early playbook publications, such as character lists, prefatory addresses, and commendatory verses. The editorial treatment of paratexts in The New Oxford Shakespeare, especially their scholarly curation and placement in its old-spelling Critical Reference Edition rather than its Modern Critical Edition, raises questions about where Shakespeare begins and ends, and how we situate him in relation to other agents of textual production. I propose the need to challenge the perceived opposition between “Shakespearean text” and “non-Shakespearean paratext”, and to consider the possibilities—raised by work in early modern paratext studies—of editing Shakespeare’s paratexts as “parerga”, “metatexts”, or even just “texts”. In short, I ask, why does front matter matter when it comes to Shakespeare’s changing canon?
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)313-317
Number of pages5
Issue number4
Early online date4 Dec 2017
Publication statusPublished - Dec 2017

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