Before and After “The Text”: Reading Front and Back Matter in Early American Writing


Panel organizer: Keat Murray, Swarthmore College


Rather than focusing on “main texts” in manuscript or print, this panel concentrates on front matter and back matter that figure into readings of the contiguous text and, perhaps more importantly, prompt questions about the form, function, and composition of paratextual materials in early American culture.  This panel welcomes proposals on all types of front and back matter in manuscript or print—title page, preface, frontispiece, dedication, epigraph, afterword, appendix, map, index, postscript, list of subscribers, etc.—and the ways in which they not only inform and complicate our understanding of the contiguous main text but also apprise us of cultural codes and discourses, reading practices and literacies, narratology, material culture, aesthetics, scribal and print culture, the production and authorization of texts, authorial and editorial control, and so on.  Proposals that investigate theoretical, hermeneutical, and methodological considerations in studying front and back matter are also encouraged.  Proposals in all fields of early American study are welcome, and submissions that explore the use of digital technologies in studying front and back paratexts will be considered, as well.  

Submit 250-300 word abstracts to Keat Murray at by Friday, September 7, 2012.