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Friday, January 21, 2011

A Preface Without Signposting?

To me a preface has to be virtually all signposting. That is it's main function. I'm not sure how to reconcile that with my desire to write only in a classic mode that de-emphasizes signposting. The preface is the roadmap to the book.

If I figure out how to do it you will be the first to know.

6 comments:

Vance Maverick said...

So what's a good example of prose in the classic mode? Hume certainly knew how to perform an introduction without signposting -- but I can't remember whether he falls within the boundaries drawn by those authors. (Plus his style is weird in some ways, with a sonnet-like formality to the layout of each paragraph.)

Jonathan said...

Descartes. LaRochefoucauld.

Vance Maverick said...

I don't know them well -- but perhaps in the "classic style", a preface is an independent, assertive little essay that establishes the need for a work like the one that is to follow. Whether it also includes sentences to the effect that "I now propose to write the sort of thing you now see is needed" is a matter of taste.

Andrew Shields said...

Isn't a preface to a book like an introduction to an essay? I usually find that introductions can be edited so as to remove signposting without a loss of the "introductory" quality of laying out what one can expect the rest of the essay to do. That is, by making a series of claims, an introduction implies that what follows will spell out that series of claims, in that order, so it is unnecessary to add "and that is what I will do in what follows" or anything like that.

Jonathan said...

Yes, good points, Vance and Andrew. My preface frames my book in terms of my previous books and my ongoing intellectual project, and contains material about the relations between chapters. I could replace it with an assertive little essay if I wanted to. But do I want to?

Vance Maverick said...

How about taking the claim "Spanish modernity is displaced -— deferred until the close of the twentieth century or superimposed on the sixteenth" from the end of the first para, and making it your opening? Probably won't quite work verbatim, but you can plunge the reader straight into the paradox you want to explore, without having to explain why.