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Intertextuality Applied

Intertextuality Applied

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Published by: Muneeba Rehman on Oct 25, 2010
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Julia Kristeva’s Notions of ‘the Semiotic’ and Intertextuality

The semiotic and the symbolic
Kristeva's general model of signifying practice is derived from Lacan's integration of Freudian analysis and structural semiology. Her conception of the semiotic and the symbolic functions operating in Psychical, textual and social life is based on the distinction Freud developed between pre-Oedipal and Oedipal sexual drives. The semiotic, as Kristeva uses the term, can be correlated with the anarchic, pre-Oedipal component drives, and polymorphous erotogenic zones, orifices and organs. The semiotic is the 'raw material' of signification, the corporeal, libidinal matter that must be harnessed and appropriately channelled for social cohesion and regulation. These infantile drives are indeterminate, capable of many aims, sources and objects. Kristeva describes the semiotic as 'feminine', a phase dominated by the space of the mother's body. Kristeva defines this space, following Plato's Timaeus, as the semiotic chora. It is a space or receptacle, an undecidably enveloped and enveloping locus from which the subject is both produced and threatened with annihilation. The chora defines and structures the limits of the child's body and its ego or identity as a subject. It is the space of the subversion of the subject, the space in which the death drive emerges and threatens to engulf the subject, to reduce it to the inertia of non-existence. . . . If the semiotic is pre-Oedipal, based on primary processes and is maternally oriented, by contrast the symbolic is an Oedipalized system, regulated by secondary processes and the Law of the Father. The symbolic is the domain of positions and propositions. The symbolic is an order superimposed on the semiotic. The symbolic control of the various semiotic processes is, however, tenuous and liable to break down or lapse at certain historically, linguistically and psychically significant moments. It results in an upheaval in the norms of the smooth, understandable text. The semiotic overflows its boundaries in those privileged 'moments' Kristeva specifies in her triad of subversive forces: madness, holiness and poetry. (p. 124)

Coining the word Intertextuality
Although Saussure stressed the importance of the relationship of signs to each other, one of the weaknesses of structuralist semiotics is the tendency to treat individual texts as discrete, closedoff entities and to focus exclusively on internal structures. Even where texts are studied as a 'corpus' (a unified collection), the overall generic structures tend themselves to be treated as strictly bounded. The structuralist's first analytical task is often described as being to delimit the boundaries of the system (what is to be included and what excluded), which is logistically understandable but ontologically problematic. Even remaining within the structuralist paradigm,

to write is. by its own force and fortune. To communicate we must utilize existing concepts and conventions. She argued that rather than confining our attention to the structure of a text we should study its 'structuration' (how the structure came into being). Structuralists sought to counter what they saw as a deep-rooted bias in literary and aesthetic thought which emphasized the uniqueness of both texts and authors (Sturrock 1986. 52). and sometimes outstrip him. not the author. 'Authorship' was a historical invention. Barthes declares that 'it is language which speaks. Consequently. whilst our intention to communicate and what we intend to communicate are both important to us as individuals. The ideology of individualism (with its associated concepts of authorial 'originality'. 105).and most clearly by language. "performs". For structuralists and poststructuralists alike we are (to use the stock Althusserian formulation) 'always already' positioned by semiotic systems . When writers write they are also written. Saussure emphasized that language is a system which pre-exists the individual speaker. Elaboration of the term: Intertextuality refers to far more than the 'influences' of writers on each other. 'the work. cited by Coward & Ellis 1977.we may note that codes transcend structures. Contemporary theorists have referred to the subject as being spoken by language. 69). may second the workman. This involved siting it 'within the totality of previous or synchronic texts' of which it was a 'transformation' (Le texte du roman. Charles Cotton: 'Of the art of 2 . for instance. which connects the text to other texts (Kristeva 1980. Concepts such as 'authorship' and 'plagiarism' did not exist in the Middle Ages. beyond his invention and knowledge' (Essays. language has powers which not only exceed individual control but also determine subjectivity. Kristeva referred to texts in terms of two axes: - a horizontal axis connecting the author and reader of a text a vertical axis. communicate things without being aware of doing so. 87). For structuralists. The semiotic notion of intertextuality introduced by Julia Kristeva is associated primarily with poststructuralist theorists. 88). 'creativity' and 'expressiveness') is a post-Renaissance legacy which reached its peak in Romanticism but which still dominates popular discourse. Uniting these two axes are shared codes: every text and every reading depends on prior codes. to reach the point where only language acts. Kristeva declared that 'every text is from the outset under the jurisdiction of other discourses which impose a universe on it' (cited in Culler 1981. As Michael de Montaigne wrote in 1580.. We may. To define meaning in terms of authorial intention is the so-called 'intentional fallacy' identified by W K Wimsatt and M C Beardsley of the 'New Critical' tendency in literary criticism (Wimsatt & Beardsley 1954).. 'Before 1500 or thereabouts people did not attach the same importance to ascertaining the precise identity of the author of a book they were reading or quoting as we do now' (Goldschmidt 1943. trans. meaning cannot be reduced to authorial 'intention'. 143). and not "me"' (Barthes 1977.

in such a way as never to rest on any one of them' (Barthes 1977. Authorship with regard to intertextuality: Theorists of intertextuality problematize the status of 'authorship'. I appear to myself as the place where something is going on. reflexivity seems to be an important issue . not just that of Balzac (Barthes 1974). 60ff). Intertextuality does not seem to be simply a continuum on a single dimension and there does not seem to be a consensus about what dimensions we should be looking for. never original. but there is no "I".. and still do not have. Barthes deconstructed Balzac's short story Sarrasine. Since the dominant mode of producing texts seems to involve masking their debts. texts are written within genres and use language in ways which their authors have seldom 'invented'. Would the 'most intertextual' text be an indistinguishable copy of another text. It would be pure idealism to regard Balzac as 'expressing himself' in language since we do not precede language but are produced by it. seeking to 'de-originate' the text . In his book S/Z. For Barthes.  3 .conferring' III. I have the feeling that my books get written through me. to counter the ones with the others. no "me"' (cited in Wiseman & Groves 2000. 173). in conforming to any of the conventions of our medium. then presumably an indistinguishable copy goes beyond being intertextual). the perception of feeling my personal identity.. Claude Lévi-Strauss declared that: 'I don't have the feeling that I write my books. we act as a medium for perpetuating such conventions. The writer can only imitate a gesture that is always anterior.. Intertextuality is not a feature of the text alone but of the 'contract' which reading it forges between its author(s) and reader(s). Some defining features of intertextuality might include the following: reflexivity: how reflexive (or self-conscious) the use of intertextuality seems to be (if reflexivity is important to what it means to be intertextual. Defining features of intertextuality It may be useful to consider the issue of 'degrees of intertextuality'.. or would that have gone beyond what it means to be intertextual? Would the 'most intratextual' text be one which approached the impossible goal of referring only to itself? Even if no specific text is referred to. blend and clash.to demonstrate that it reflects many voices. writing did not involve an instrumental process of recording pre-formed thoughts and feelings (working from signified to signifier) but was a matter of working with the signifiers and letting the signifieds take care of themselves (Chandler 1995. 8).. none of them original. The text is a tissue of quotations. His only power is to mix writings. 146). treating the writer of a text as the orchestrator of what Roland Barthes refers to as the 'already-written' rather than as its originator (Barthes 1974. 'A text is. a multidimensional space in which a variety of writings. I never had. 21). Furthermore..we need to consider how marked the intertextuality is.

of a serial. In the middle of the story.” This paragraph tells readers that the following story may be related to this man. the man the narrator loved. of a series. direct quotation.  Textual analysis of Nettles on intertextuality The fiction Nettles is a short story written by the famous Canada female writer Alice Munro.” which reminds readers of the gender differences of men and women in remembering things. she says. and the same scene which they have encounter before no matter in real life or in the movies. the art of intertextuality will be demonstrated. Then readers may apply their knowledge of gender differences to understand the descriptions of how different the things they remembered. The narrative sequence of the story makes this simple plot more attractive.) . I walked into the kitchen of my friend Sunny’s house. Because women are more emotionally expressive. and  structural unboundedness: to what extent the text is presented (or understood) as part of or tied to a larger structure (e. At the beginning of the story.g. so it is quite easy for readers to get the smooth feeling of the 4 . Base on the textual analysis of Nettles.  explicitness: the specificity and explicitness of reference(s) to other text(s) (e. When the narrator and Mike recall their childhood memories. The story gains its fame by its narrative strategies. theme. arouses readers’ interests to go further into this story. where Mike McCallum was spreading ketchup on a piece of bread. “the things Mike remembered were different from the things I remembered. “In the summer of 1979. relations between women and men. making himself a ketchup sandwich. more emotionally responsive. and saw a man standing at the counter. This is the technique of rhetorical or literary presupposition of intertextuality. as part of a genre.alteration: the alteration of sources (more noticeable alteration presumably making it more reflexively intertextual).  scale of adoption: the overall scale of allusion/incorporation within the text. “…We walked into the kitchen. the concern will about the application of intertextuality as a device to create Déjà Vu phenomenon since seldom of scholars have ever have a touch in this field. of a magazine. attributed quotation) (is assuming recognition more reflexively intertextual?). of an exhibition etc. and usage of symbolism. the narrator gives the identity of this man. more emphatic and more sensitive to others’ feelings.” Then we know that the man in the kitchen is Mike McCallum. However.g. the narrator says.factors which are often not under the control of the author of the text. and it arouses readers’ interest in going through the whole story with suspense and all their previous knowledge of men.  criticality to comprehension: how important it would be for the reader to recognize the intertextuality involved.

“I want to brush against him—just lightly and accidentally against his arm or shoulders. restrain from expressing their feelings. ”—she longs to.” This scene happens when “I” sleep in the bed which belongs to Mike. With the first knowledge. For example. readers get the first impression of this kind of plant—a kind of wild plant with rough leaves that sting you. 5 . readers can also sense the meticulous feeling revealed in many other scenes. Mike remember the “clay cannonballs and the war”. and insensitive to details. in this work. men control their feelings. So it is easier for each of them to obtain unique understanding of this story. thus achieves her novel by enhancing the feeling of déjà vu with a result of striking readers with simple plot but deeper meaning. With the application of intertextuality. intertextuality remain its value. “Lying in the same sheets did not make for a peaceful night. at least fewer than the female one does. her behaviours and her emotional changes. Therefore. When going back to the title “nettles”. For example.narrator’s affection towards Mike. Then if he didn’t stir away out of courtesy. Also with this gender knowledge. The text become unique to them. By using the technique of intertextuality. Readers can sense the complex feeling with their previous knowledge. but fails to remember more details of their childhood. With the trans-moving from the text and their thoughts. It seems that Mike fails to catch the implication of narrator’s words. On the other hand. the author creates a good communication between readers and herself. the author involves readers into the world she created to experience the same things the characters experienced. From above. and it is inflective love which produces no results. struggles to and finally fails to touch him. readers lose themselves in the fancy travel of déjà vu. just like the love between “I” and Mike is not “nettles” either. for different reader may have different experience and thus has different journey in the world of déjà vu. Then they know that the plants that sting them are not nettles. “There was a keen alarm when the cry came. readers may go further to get the implicature of nettles. “I” have a struggle and longing for Mike. the narrator hoping to touch Mike. a fanatic feeling of devotion…” Why she thinks Mike has a “sweet and vulnerable belly button”—because she likes Mike. we can see that borrowing materials from other media is quite an effective way to achieve certain purpose because readers may quickly occur in their mind the same experience they have already experienced or seem to experience before. a wire zinging through your body. Then reader will think why it is not a peaceful night. a lot of images which they have meet either in films or in novels how the female one lying in bed sleepless looking at the door again and again hoping the male one who sleeps right outside the sofa in the living room would break the door and come to her appear to the readers. These are due to the gender differences in people’s behaviors. and she remembers the details between Mike and her. When concerns with the absorption and transformation of other works. taking my touch for a genuine accident?—I want to lay a finger against his bare neck. in the scene when they are in the garden watching the stars.

However. usually insensitive. whether they are brought to the world created by the story narrator or they are just trapped in the distant familiar memories that fascinate them so much. characteristics. Just as what happen in the story. we may have a touch of how the art of intertextuality helps us to understand this novel. she still has a romantic ideal of love towards Mike after long time of separation. a world of a story is half created by the author by the information he or she reflected from his or her words. Therefore. the journey of losing in Déjà Vu starts. And also readers may remind themselves of the situations when girls and boys sitting around doing group works talking about their ideal soul-made half while the boys finally get the results that are quite different from what girls expect them to be.Lost in Déjà Vu From the above textual analysis of Nettles. which as a result. As for the gender differences which have already been discussed in the former part. From the point of gender roles played by men and women. All these images and interpretations are the products of the usage of in intertextuality. he may easily sense that “I” has affection towards him for “my” words and body language may unconsciously betray “my” feeling. a drama. objects or even places are so familiar to us. readers sometimes can not tell where they really are. While readers read these parts related to gender differences in the story. we understand why Mike as a man. The moment when readers involve themselves into the story. For the narrator. they begin the journey of losing themselves in the trans-communication between the text itself and their memories. The readers transported from the reality to the imaginations or from the previous memories to the text. In fact. and with the knowledge of it. This story is just like a plate of chop-souxy (Chao-fan) which mixes up almost all those that seem familiar to us. In this sense. the application of intertextuality provides us a new way to appreciate a story. as if once upon a time we have met them in some other places or occasions. fails to catch “my” feeling. This effect is achieved by the employment of intertextuality. which is far more complex than we could image. Mike may have changed the puppy love into friendship. structures. these scenes. since if Mike plays a role of female. Mike and the narrator treat their relationship differently. cause readers losing themselves in Déjà Vu. the way she or he treats things 6 . In the world of intertextuality. here comes déjà vu because in our lives we once have had this feeling of miss something due to gender differences. we have the general image of what different attitudes and emotion reflections man and women show towards things. The phenomenon of Déjà Vu is universal familiar to us. All of these are art of déjà vu produced by the device of intertextuality. a novel. we can discover another aspect of beauty of the story. They may think of the passing days when they argue with their opposite-sex parent about a certain issue and finally with a feeling of frustration or upset that causes them to complain on misunderstanding or on gap. With the previous knowledge of gender differences. Conclusion From the above analysis of the application of intertextuality and the phenomenon of Déjà Vu produced by it. But it on the other hand contributes to the beauty of this story. a film even a piece of music or a land of constructions. they have quite different sense towards love.

However the other half is composed by the readers themselves. To sum up. In this sense. It is said that one thousand readers may interpret one thousand Hamlets. with a touch of knowledge of this story by employing intertextuality. an advertisement or a piece of news since it may greatly help to better understand the works. for different reader with different understanding of one object according to his or her own experiences and knowledge immortal the work. so this half of the world closer the world of story and the worlds of readers. a film.and also the strategies and devices she or he employs in the text. 7 . we should bear in mind intertextuality awareness when we going through a story. the device of intertextuality has its own significance and value in its way.

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