On the Boundaries of Watchmen : Paratextual Narratives across Media
Abstract: This dissertation is an intervention into the ongoing revisions of Gerard Genette’s concept of paratexts. Increasingly used in discussions of artifacts other than the literary novels that were Genette’s object of attention, the concept of paratexts has given rise to intense debates regarding the nature and functions of paratextual elements across media. One area of contestation is the relation of paratext to narrative. While Genette’s original paradigm complicates the possibility of a narrative paratext, I show that the liminal zones usually occupied by paratexts—what I call paratextual space—are commonly used for narrative purposes, particularly as popular narratives extend across media. In this dissertation, I analyze the different embodiments of Watchmen with a focus on such a use of paratextual spaces. I argue that studies of narratives presented in these spaces—what I refer to as paratextual narratives—will not only shed light on these narrative strategies, but also give new insights into how popular narratives extend across new media platforms.My first analytical chapter concerns the material that frames the Watchmen graphic narrative, and its roots in the media specific history and paratextual phenomenon known as lettercols. I show how this paratextual space was repurposed in the creation of Watchmen to present narrative material that worked to establish and augment the history of the storyworld and the characters presented in the graphic narrative of the Watchmen comics. I argue that the functions of these materials are influenced by the tradition established by the lettercols and the paratextual spaces in which they are situated. In my second analytical chapter I turn to the Watchmen adaptation, focusing in particular on the digital narratives framing the cinematic premiere of the film. I show how the paratextual nature of these materials occluded their narrative functions, causing them to be excluded from what is regarded the adaptation of Watchmen. I argue that the materials framing the Watchmen film are paratextual narratives that should be seen as integral parts of the Watchmen adaptation. In my conclusion I address the Watchmen prequel-series Before Watchmen and raise questions regarding how paratextual narratives function for media franchising.
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