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date: 24 May 2022

Abstract and Keywords

This chapter offers an overview of a genre that has attracted little attention qua genre: the legal paratext. Gérard Genette likened the paratext to a vestibule that operates as a zone of transition and transaction, a liminal space that prepares the reader’s experience of the text. Yet there are other, more cautionary paratexts that crowd, often invisibly, the vestibules of books and other cultural forms. This chapter surveys the transatlantic (American and British) repertoire of legal paratexts appearing in books, including copyright notices, once mandatory in the United States but now permissive there and in many countries; statements of US manufacture, deriving from a period in American publishing when copyright protection turned on strict compliance with the statutory requirement that books be physically manufactured on US soil; “all characters are fictitious” disclaimers, which urge readers to put aside their instinct to sue for libel or for privacy invasion and to engage with the text as a fictive and aesthetic creation; “no-obscenity” statements—a feature of many controversial modernist works—which seek to discourage official attempts at censorship and assure readers that books have been or are likely to be deemed by a court to be safe for consumption. Legal paratexts continue to crowd the vestibules of books, movies, musical recordings, and other works, warning readers, scolding them, and attempting to regulate their behavior in accordance with legal and corporate norms. They are linked to other literary genres, such as parody, satire, the apologia, and the palinode.

Keywords: paratexts, legal paratexts, copyright, manufacturing, libel, obscenity, parody, modernism, transatlantic

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