Studies of the theory of fiction(ality) and the reception of fiction emphasize the impact that peritextual markers have on our understanding of artefacts as either fiction or non-fiction. Genre labels, explicit statements concerning the fictionality or "inventedness", (legal) disclaimers or conventional elements of the title are regarded as signals, telling the reader that the texts in question do not represent reality. This broad statement, however, lacks both theoretical foundation and deeper insight into the diachronic evolution of peritextual status claims.
The dissertation focusses on the evolution of peritextual "signposts of fictionality" in German, English and French narrative literature from the "rise of the novel" to contemporary texts. The ambivalent function of such claims and signals will be described in detail as well as the circumstances that lead to their introduction and evolution.
Insights into the historical practices of publication (most peritextual elements well known to today's readers, such as genre labels, jacket texts, "blurbs", disclaimers etc., emerge only comparatively late in the history of the book) as well as considerations of copyright and conceptions of authorship will open a diachronic perspective that intends to found the theory of fictionality upon a broad material base. The diachronic approach and the analysis of peritextual markers should also lead to a contribution to the theory of fictionality
itself, focussing on the ubiquitous ambivalence of these markers and the fact that fiction often was, and is, read (also) as a description of reality – even if a peritext claims that it is not.