Alice McGrath

Andrew W. Mellon Graduate Fellow in the Humanities

20122013 Forum on Peripheries

Alice McGrath


Writing from the Margins: Paratext and Authority in Eighteenth-Century Print Culture

Footnotes, indexes, prefaces, tables, summaries, glosses: these liminal texts mediated reading in eighteenth-century Britain, yet they disappear in modern editions. My project seeks to recover these marginal discourses, asking how a book's spatial divisions create and transform power relations. Women, people of color, and laboring-class writers used a division between creating "author" and mediating "editor" to consecrate their works. From generic conceits such as epistolarity and the fragment poem to satires of scholarly editing practices, editorial framing negotiated anxieties about status, practice, and ethics of literature. My project asks what textual appendages can access that the literary work itself cannot. Focusing on poetry and prose by writers such as Aphra Behn, Samuel Richardson, James MacPherson, and Laurence Sterne, I explore how mediating texts created new possibilities for expression.