The Paratext/Metatext Continuum Walter Benjamin’s “The Translator’s Task” As a Paratext That Is Also a Metatext Within a Network of Nested Textual Manifestations

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Babar Khan

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Paratexts have been defined as liminal devices that mediate a text to readers, such as titles, forewords, prefaces, etc. However, there’s an inherent open-endedness to their role since they often act as important commentaries on the text, and influence its reception in fundamental ways, thus blurring the distinction between paratexts and critical essays, what Gérard Genette terms “metatexts” (2001: 270). Accordingly, Walter Benjamin’s iconic “The Translator’s Task” is analyzed as a paratext that is also a metatext, along with an essay by Steven Rendall, his most authoritative contemporary translator into English, to show how the interplay between source texts, translated texts, paratexts, and metatexts produces a phenomenological network of nested textual layers, and that absolutist boundaries between paratexts and metatexts create various ambiguities and contradictions that obscure the fact that there is a continuum between these important manifestations of textuality.     

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