The Pennsylvania State University
Cover for the book First Pages

First Pages

A Poetics of Titles Giancarlo Maiorino
  • Copyright: 2008
  • Dimensions: 6 x 9
  • Page Count: 376 pages
  • Illustrations: 35 b&w illustrations
  • Hardcover ISBN: 978-0-271-02996-2
  • Paperback ISBN: 978-0-271-05874-0
“Professor Maiorino’s First Pages, sparkling with witty aperçus, offers the first systematic and genuinely comparative study of ‘titology’ in literature. Proceeding from the thesis that the title is ‘the seed that contains the tree,’ the sophisticated work provides both theory and practice of its fascinating topic, taking representative examples from the Renaissance to the present. The reader will never again look at a literary title with the same innocence as before.”

“Titology,” a term first coined in 1977 by literary critic Harry Levin, is the field of literary studies that focuses on the significance of a title in establishing the thematic developments of the pages that follow. While the term has been used in the literary community for thirty years, this book presents for the first time a thoroughly developed theoretical discussion on the significance of the title as a foundation for scholarly criticism.

Though Maiorino acknowledges that many titles are superficial and “indexical,” there exists a separate and more complex class of titles that do much more than simply decorate a book’s spine. To prove this argument, Maiorino analyzes a wide range of examples from the modern era through high modernism to postmodernism, with writings spanning the globe from Spain and France to Germany and America. By examining works such as Essais, The Waste Land, Ulysses, and Don Quixote, First Pages proves the power of the title to connect the reader to the thematic, cultural, and literary context of the writing as a whole. Much like a façade to a building, the title page serves as the frontispiece of literature, a sign that offers perspective and demands interpretation.

Giancarlo Maiorino is Rudy Professor Emeritus of Comparative Literature, Indiana University. He is the author of numerous books, including At the Margins of the Renaissance: Lazarillo de Tormes and the Picaresque Art of Survival (Penn State, 2003), winner of the 2004 Modern Language Association's James Russell Lowell Prize.


List of Illustrations


Introduction: The Frontispiece of Literature


1. At the Top of the Page and Below the Frame: Arcadia, Concert Champêtre, and Pastoral Titles

2. The Title’s Novelistic Birthmark: La vida de Lazarillo de Tormes y sus fortunas y adversidades

3. From Title to Genre: Essaying at the Threshold of Form


4. Title Translated into Title: Ulysses

5. The Waste Land: The Archaeology of Titles

6. Off the Page and onto the Stage: Sei personaggi in cerca d’autore

7. Between Expectation and Explanation: Waiting for Godot

8. The Dustbin of Titles: From “The Literature of Exhaustion” to “The Literature of Replenishment”


9. “La biblioteca de Babel”: The Archititle in a Library of Titles

10. Cervantine First Pages: The Inadequacies of Retitling

11. The Picaresque and the Quixotic: An Adventure in Titology

12. Se una notte d’inverno un viaggiatore: Et cetera, Et cetera

13. After the End of Art: The Obituary of Titles

14 The Literature of Titles



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