The concept of “paratext” as put forth by Gérard Genette in Seuils (1987), published as Paratexts in English translation in 1997, has opened up a fertile area for translation research since the 1990s, starting with seminal studies by Theo Hermans (1996) and Urpo Kovala (1996). The soaring interest in the concept has brought forth myriad case studies, mainly in literary translation, that focus on the various paratextual elements surrounding translations, particularly on the peritexts. In the meantime, the rich cultural and temporal range of the case studies has not resulted in an extensive theoretical questioning of the concept and its heuristic capacity for translation research. This is precisely the gap Kathryn Batchelor addresses in her new book, where she explores the issue of paratexts from within an interdisciplinary framework. Translation and Paratexts is a long overdue work on the insights brought by paratexts to translation studies, as well as the neighbouring disciplines of digital and media studies, and is essential reading for the many researchers already convinced that translation analysis can never be complete without incorporating those visible and invisible elements surrounding translations into their investigations of texts. The book is written in three interconnected parts, each comprising several chapters. Part I offers an overview of Genette’s notion of the paratext and its adoption by translation studies, as well as by digital, media and communication scholars. This part is both critical and informative, and researchers and graduate students preparing to work hands-on with paratexts will find it useful, and benefit from its interdisciplinary insights. Part II contains three case studies; the first one, in Chapter 4, explores the relevance of the notion of “authorized translation” for paratexts via English versions of Nietzsche. Chapter 5, co-authored with Sarah Fang Tang, who selected and mediated the corpus for Batchelor, includes the second case study, on Chinese paratexts of Western translation theory texts published in China. The third case study, in Chapter 6, goes into the realm of media studies and audiovisual translation, and is about a British show presenting foreign drama to British viewers. Although each is full of interesting insights, the case studies offered in Part II do not organically follow or foreshadow the discussions in Part I and Part III; there is considerable disconnect between their case-specific findings, and the larger theoretical and methodological conclusions in the final part of the book. However, this does not reduce their value, since each case study features diligently researched and carefully analysed data, and is a prime example of empirical research in translation. Part III focuses on theoretical questions pertaining to paratextuality in translation studies. Chapter 7 includes a careful terminological and typological delineation of Batchelor’s notion of the paratext, while Chapter 8 offers a number of research topics and methodologies that can be tapped into via paratextual perspectives. Part III is very much the heart of the book; it is the part where Batchelor offers her original contributions to the theory of the paratext, while also presenting some sound research advice and innovative research ideas that incorporate paratexts. Kathryn Batchelor opens her study with a quote from Genette who wrote: “Paratextuality […] is first and foremost a treasure trove of questions without answers” (1997a, p. 4, in Batchelor, p. 1). Throughout its various sections, the book proves Genette right, and Batchelor ends up posing more questions than answering them. This is not to say that she does not clarify aspects of Genette’s paratextuality that have been glossed over or simply ignored in previous research. On the contrary, the author opens up various elements of the paratext to rigorous scrutiny, and is able …
- Deane-Cox, Sharon (2014). Retranslation: Translation, Literature and Reinterpretation. London, Bloomsbury.
- Genette, Gérard (1997a). Palimpsests. Literature in the Second Degree. Tr. Channa Newman and Claude Doubinsky. Lincoln/London, University of Nebraska Press.
- Genette, Gérard (1997b). Paratexts. Thresholds of Interpretation. Tr. Jane E. Lewin. Cambridge, Cambridge University Press.
- Hermans, Theo (1996). “The Translator’s Voice in Translated Narrative.” Target, 8, 1, p. 23–48.
- Kovala, Urpo (1996). “Translations, Paratextual Mediation, and Ideological Closure.” Target, 8, 1, p. 119–147.
- Tahir-Gürçağlar, Şehnaz (2002). “What Texts Don’t Tell: The Uses of Paratexts in Translation Research.” In T. Hermans, ed. Crosscultural Transgressions. Research Models in Translation Studies 2: Historical and Ideological Issues. Manchester, St Jerome Publishing, p. 44–60.