“Thou liv’st to all that Read”: Reading the Paratext of William Cartwright’s Comedies, Tragi-Comedies, With other Poems (1651) as Early Modern Life Writing

Sarah Herbe


This essay proposes to read the paratext of books published in seventeenth-century as a form of multi-perspective, multi-generic, and multi-modal of life writing, since information on the author is not only provided in chronological “Life of the Author” narratives, but by all elements of the paratext. Drawing on the paratext of William Cartwright’s Comedies, Tragi-Comedies, With other Poems, published posthumously in 1651, it is shown how conventional paratextual strategies are combined with individualising “biographemes” (R. Barthes) to create a multi-faceted presentation of the author, in which the reader’s role to reconstruct the author’s life emerges as central.


This article was submitted on June 1st 2014 and published on November 3rd 2014


Life writing; paratexts; biographemes; seventeenth century; England

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DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.5463/ejlw.3.106


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European Journal of Life Writing - ISSN 1876-8156 - is an open access initiative supported by University of Groningen Library