First Pages

A Poetics of Titles

By (author) Giancarlo Maiorino

Hardback - £65.95

Publication date:

17 June 2008

Length of book:

376 pages


Penn State University Press

ISBN-13: 9780271029962

“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.

“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.”

—Theodore Ziolkowski, Princeton University