Beyond the Subject. Vienna Conference Papers

“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 University of Salzburg



Life writing, paratexts, biographemes, seventeenth century, England


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

Author Biography

Sarah Herbe, University of Salzburg

Sarah Herbe ( is assistant professor at the Department of English and American Studies, University of Salzburg. In the framework of her habilitation project she examines paratextual life writing found in 17th and 18th-century poetry collections. Recent publications include a journal article on Thomas Beedome (2014), the monograph Characters in New British Hard Science Fiction (Winter, 2012), and the edited volume Life Course Models in Literary Genres (Winter, 2011). Forthcoming publications include one book chapter on Dryden’s prefatory essays and one on life writing projects in posthuman science fiction. In 2011, she won the “Award for Excellent Teaching” of the University of Salzburg for a seminar on “Women’s Life Writing.”





Beyond the Subject. Vienna Conference Papers