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Intertextuality:

Definition:
The interdependent ways in which texts stand in relation to one another (as well as to the
culture at large) to produce meaning.
A central idea of contemporary literary and cultural theory, intertextuality has its origins in
20th-century linguistics, particularly in the work of Swiss linguist Ferdinand de Saussure
(1857-1913). The term itself was coined by the Bulgarian-French philosopher and
psychoanalyst Julia Kristeva in the 1960s.

Examples and Observations:

"Intertextuality seems such a useful term because it foregrounds notions of


relationality, interconnectedness and interdependence in modern cultural life. In the
Postmodern epoch, theorists often claim, it is not possible any longer to speak of
originality or the uniqueness of the artistic object, be it a painting or novel, since every
artistic object is so clearly assembled from bits and pieces of already existent art."
(Graham Allen, Intertextuality. Routledge, 2000)

"Interpretation is shaped by a complex of relationships between the text, the reader,


reading, writing, printing, publishing and history: the history that is inscribed in the
language of the text and in the history that is carried in the reader's reading. Such a
history has been given a name: intertextuality."
(Jeanine Parisier Plottel and Hanna Kurz Charney, Introduction to Intertextuality: New
Perspectives in Criticism. New York Literary Forum, 1978)

"Postmodernist ideas about intertextuality and quotation have complicated the


simplistic ideas about plagiarism which were in Destry-Schole's day. I myself think
that these lifted sentences, in their new contexts, are almost the purest and most
beautiful parts of the transmission of scholarship."
(A.S. Byatt, The Biographer's Tale, 2001)

Example of Rhetorical Intertextuality


"[Judith] Still and [Michael] Worton [in Intertextuality: Theories and Practice, 1990]
explained that every writer or speaker 'is a reader of texts (in the broadest sense)
before s/he is a creator of texts, and therefore the work of art is inevitably shot through
with references, quotations, and influences of every kind' (p. 1). For example, we can
assume that Geraldine Ferraro, the Democratic congresswoman and vice presidential
nominee in 1984, had at some point been exposed to John F. Kennedy's 'Inaugural
Address.' So, we should not have been surprised to see traces of Kennedy's speech in
the most important speech of Ferraro's career--her address at the Democratic
Convention on July 19, 1984. We saw Kennedy's influence when Ferraro constructed a

variation of Kennedy's famous chiasmus, as 'Ask not what your country can do for you
but what you can do for your country' was transformed into 'The issue is not what
America can do for women but what women can do for America.'"
(James Jasinski, Sourcebook on Rhetoric. Sage, 2001)

Two Types of Intertextuality


"We can distinguish between two types of intertextuality: iterability and
presupposition. Iterability refers to the 'repeatability' of certain textual fragments, to
citation in its broadest sense to include not only explicit allusions, references, and
quotations within a discourse, but also unannounced sources and influences, clichs,
phrases in the air, and traditions. That is to say, every discourse is composed of 'traces,'
pieces of other texts that help constitute its meaning. . . . Presupposition refers to
assumptions a text makes about its referent, its readers, and its context--to portions of
the text which are read, but which are not explicitly 'there.' . . . 'Once upon a time' is a
trace rich in rhetorical presupposition, signaling to even the youngest reader the
opening of a fictional narrative. Texts not only refer to but in fact contain other texts."
(James E. Porter, "Intertextuality and the Discourse Community." Rhetoric Review,
Fall 1986)