Structure and Functions of the Title in Literature

Critical Inquiry 14 (4):692-720 (1988)

Abstract
Wishing to contribute to the brief history of title science, I would argue that the difference in terminology between “secondary title” and “subtitle” is too weak for the mind to grasp; and since, as Duchet has noted, the principal feature of his “subtitle” is to contain a more or less explicit generic indication, it would be simpler and more vocative to rebaptize it as such, thereby freeing the term “subtitle” to resume its usual present meaning. Hence these three terms: “title” , “subtitle” , “generic indication” . This is the most complete state of a de facto system in which the only mandatory element, in our present culture, is the first one. Nowadays, we find most frequently incomplete combinations, such as title plus subtitle or title plus generic indication —without counting the really simple titles that are reduced to the single “title” element, without subtitle or generic indication, such as Les Mots or, a little differently, statements such as the following, clearly parodic: Victor Shklovskii, Zoo / Letters not about Love / or The Third Heloise. Gérard Genette is professor of history and theory of literary forms at the École des Hautes Études en Sciences Sociales. His principal works in French include Figures , Figures II , Figures III , Introduction à l’architexte , Nouveau discours du récit , and, most recently, Seuils . Bernard Crampé is assistant professor of romance languages and literatures at the University of Chicago. His principal work is in the history of rhetoric
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DOI 10.1086/448462
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