chapter  7
17 Pages

Prefacing Texts, Authorizing Authors, and Constructing Selves: The Preface as Autobiographical Space

WithJulie A. Eckerle

The preface is a unique textual space, one that demands very particular kind of rhetoric because of its generic constraints and yet allows ample room for an author's manipulation and creativity. Perhaps the best articulation of the prefaces paradoxical nature appears in Barbara Johnson's playful response to Jacques Derrida's Dissemination. The autobiographical details summarized here paradoxically depict Speght as the heroic defender of all people and, simultaneously, a woman who clearly knows her place. In her work on French Renaissance women writers, Anne R. Larsen reveals the value of this kind of study: Early women writers exploited the prefaces marginality and epistolarity. Early modern women writers were similarly able to capitalize on the prefaces traditional epistolarity, for prefatory texts are always addressed to a reader whether known or unknown, general or specific, singular or plural and sometimes actually take the form of an epistolary dedication. The advent of the female writer in English literary history is complicated, based on numerous interconnected factors.