Intertextuality and Literature Literature Presentation Kat Robinson
A term most fully and originally explicated by Julia Kristeva in the school of poststructuralism, intertextuality has taken on a variety of meanings since her discussion of the term in the 1960s. On its most basic level, intertextuality is the concept of texts' borrowing of each others' words and concepts. This could mean as much as an entire ideological concept and as little as a word or phrase. As authors borrow pro-actively from previous texts, their work gains layers of meaning. Also, another feature of intertextuality reveals itself when a text is read in light of another text, in which case all of the assumptions and implications surrounding the other text shed light on and shape the way a text is interpreted.
In response to Ferdinand de Saussure's claim that signs gain their meaning through structure in a particular text, implying that meaning is transmitted directly from writer to reader, Kristeva argued that because of the influence of other texts on readers' consciousnesses, texts are always filtered through "codes" which bring the weight of other, previous meanings with them. We are, then, already imbricated in a web of meaning created by other texts and the connotations surrounding them as opposed to deriving meaning directly from the structure of signs as Saussure would have it in his semiotics.
Another key proponent of the theory of intertextuality is Julia Kristeva. In fact, the nomenclature “intertextuality” is her coinage. She initially used the term in her dialogue with the texts of Mikhail Bakhtin. Moreover, Kristeva gives several illuminating definitions of intertextuality, among which are the following:Any text is constructed as a mosaic of quotations; any text is the absorption and transformation of another (quoted from Clayton and Rothstein, 1991: 20).In the space of a given text, several utterances, taken from other texts, intersect and neutralize one another (Clayton and Rothstein, 1991: 29).
M. H. Abrams’s definition of intertextuality provides the aptest framework for this discourse. According to him, intertextuality is a creative means used to:Signify the multiple ways in which any one literary text echoes, or is inescapably linked to, other texts, whether by open or covert citations and allusions, or by the assimilation of the feature of an earlier text by a later text, or simply by participation in a common stock of literary codes and conventions (1981: 200).
Intertextuality and Literature Identify the references to other texts, ideas, stories, myths, artworks, thoughts, histories, or people in the text. Identify what references appear to be central to the text’s ideas and themes and plots. Indicate how the use, appearance, or treatment of the references in the text contributes to a richer or more developed meaning.
Practice What are the references? How do you know it is a reference? Who would be able to understand the reference? How does understanding the reference make the text different? How can something apparently marginal or trivial in the text be brought to the center of attention?