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Intertextuality is the shaping of a text’s meaning by another text. It is the interconnection between similar and related works of literature that reflects and influences an audience’s interpretation of the text. Intertextual figures include: allusion , quotation , layer , plagiarism , translation , pastiche and parody . [1] [2] [3]Intertextuality is a literary device that creates an interrelationship between texts and an overview of intertextuality (“Intertextuality”, 2015). These references are made to influence the reader and add layers of depth to a text, based on the readers’ prior knowledge and understanding. Intertextuality is a literary discourse strategy (Gadavanij, nd) used by writers in novels, poetry, theater and even in non-written texts (such as performances and digital media). Examples of intertextuality are an author’s borrowing and transformation of a prior text, and a reader’s referencing of one text in reading another.

Intertextuality does not require citing or referencing punctuation (such as quotation marks) and is often mistaken for plagiarism (Ivanic, 1998). Intertextuality can be produced using a variety of functions including allusion, quotation and referencing (Hebel, 1989). However, intertextuality is not always intentional and can be used inadvertently. As philosopher William Irwin wrote, the term “has come to be almost as many as users, from those faithful to Julia Kristeva’s original vision to those who use it as a way of talking about allusion and influence “. [4]


Intertextuality and intertextual relations can be separated into three types: obligatory, optional and accidental (Fitzsimmons, 2013). These variations depend on two key factors: the intention of the writer, and the significance of the reference. The distinctions between these types and differences between categories are not absolute and exclusive (Miola, 2004) but instead, are manipulated in a way that allows them to co-exist within the same text.


Mandatory intertextuality is when the writer deliberately invokes a comparison or association between two (or more) texts. Without this pre-understanding or success to ‘grasp the link’, the reader’s understanding of the text is viewed as inadequate (Fitzsimmons, 2013). Obligatory intertextuality on the reading or understanding of a prior hypotext, before full comprehension of the hypertext can be achieved (Jacobmeyer, 1998).


To understand the specific context and characterization within Tom Stoppard’s Rosencrantz and Guildenstern are Dead, one must first be familiar with Shakespeare’s Hamlet (Mitchell, nd). It is in Hamlet we first meet these characters as, and the Rosencrantz and Guildenstern plot unravels, specific scenes from Hamlet are actually performed and viewed from a different perspective. This understanding of the hypotext Hamlet, gives deeper meaning to the pretext of the implicit themes of Rosencrantz and Guildenstern are more recognizable.


Optional intertextuality has a vital impact on the significance of the hypertext. It is a possible, but not essential, intertextual relationship that if recognized, the connection would be slightly different (Fitzsimmons, 2013). Optional Intertextuality it is possible to find a connection to multiple texts of a single sentence, or no connection at all (Ivanic, 1998). The intent of the writer when using optional intertextuality, is to pay homage to the ‘original’ writers, or to reward those who read the hypotext. However, the reading of this hypotext is not necessary to the understanding of the hypertext.


The use of optional intertextuality may be something as simple as parallel characters or plotlines. For example, JK Rowling’s Harry Potter series shares many similarities with JRR Tolkien’s Lord of the Rings trilogy. They both apply to an aging wizard mentor (Professor Dumbledore and Gandalf) and a key friendship group is formed to assist the protagonist (an innocent young boy) on their arduous quest to defeat a powerful wizard and to destroy a powerful being (Keller , 2013).


Accidental intertextuality is when reading a text in the text of the text, or in the text of the text (John Fitzsimmons). The writer has no intention of making an intertextual reference and it is entirely about the reader that these connections are made (Wöhrle, 2012).


Often when reading a book or viewing a movie will be triggered in the viewers’ mind. For example, when reading Herman Melville’s ‘Moby Dick’, a reader can use his or her prior experiences to make a connection between the size of the whale and the size of the ship.


Julia Kristeva Was the first corner to the term “intertextuality” in an attempt to synthesize Ferdinand de Saussure ‘s semiotics -His study of how signs drift Their meaning dans le structure of text-with Bakhtin’s dialogism -His Theory Suggests a qui Continual dialogue with other works of literature and other authors-and his examination of the multiple meanings, or ” heteroglossia “, in each text (especially novels) and in each word. [5] For Kristeva, [6] “the notion of intertextuality replaces the notion of” intersubjectivity”When we Realize That meaning is not Transferred Directly From writer to reader aim INSTEAD is mediated through, or filtered by” codes “imparted to the writer and reader by other texts. For example, When We read James Joyce ‘s Ulysses we decode it as a modernist literary experiment, or as a response to the epic tradition, or as share of Some Other chat , or as share of all of These conversations at once. This intertextual view of literature, as shown by Roland Barthes , supports the concept that the meaning of a text is not in the text, but is produced by the reader in the text, but also in the complex network of texts invoked in the reading process.

More recent post-structuralist theory, Such As That Formulated in Daniela Caselli’s Beckett ‘s Dantes : intertextuality in the Fiction and Criticism (MUP 2005), re-examined “intertextuality” as a Production Within texts, Rather than have a series of relationships entre different texts. Some postmodern theorists [7] like to talk about the relationship between “intertextuality” and ” hypertextuality ” (not to be confused with hypertext , another semiotic term coined by Gérard Genette ); intertextuality makes each text a “living hell of hell on earth” [8] and part of a larger mosaic of texts, just as each hypertextcan be a web of links and part of the whole World-Wide Web . Indeed, the World-Wide Web has been theorized as a unique realm of reciprocal intertextuality, in which no particular text is claiming centrality, yet the Web text eventually produces an image of a community-the group of people who write and read text specific discursive strategies. [9]

One can also make distinctions between the notions of “intertext”, “hypertext” and “supertext”. citation needed ] Take for example the Dictionary of the Khazars by Milorad Pavić . As an intertext, it employs quotations from the scriptures of the Abrahamic religions . As a hypertext, it consists of links to different articles within itself and also every individual trajectory of reading it. As a supertext, it combines male and female versions of itself, as well as three mini-dictionaries in each of the versions.

Competing terms

Some critics have complained that the term “intertextuality” in postmodern criticism has crowded out related and important nuances. Irwin (227) laments that intertextuality has eclipsed allusion to an object of literary study while lacking the latter term’s clear definition. [10] Linda Hutcheon argues that the intertextuality of the intertextuality of the intertextuality of the intertextuality can be found in the context of the communicator’s intentions. By contrast, in A Theory of Parody Hutcheon parody notes always features an author who actively encodes a text as an imitation with critical difference. [11]However, there have been several types of intertextuality. The Australian media scholar John Fiske has made distinction between what he labels ‘vertical’ and ‘horizontal’ intertextuality. Horizontal intertextuality denotes references that are on the ‘same level’ ie when books make references to other books, vertical vertical intertextuality is found when, say, a book makes reference to film or song or vice versa. citation needed ] Similarly, Norman Fairclough’s Linguist distinguishes between ‘manifest intertextuality’ and ‘constitutive intertextuality’. [12]The form means intertextual elements such as presupposition, negation, parody, irony, etc. The latter means the interrelationship of discursive features in a text, such as structure, form, or genre. However , interdiscursivityrefers to interdiscursivity , [13] although interdiscursivity refers to relations between larger formations of texts.


While intertextuality is a complex and multileveled literary term, it is often confused with the more casual term ‘allusion’. Allusion is a passing or casual reference; an incidental mention of something, either directly or by implication (“Plagiarism”, 2015). This means it is most closely linked to both obligatory and accidental intertextuality, as the ‘allusion’ is made to the listener or to the original source. It is also seen as accidental, however, that they are normally phrases that are so frequently or casually used, that the true meaning of the words is not fully appreciated. Allusion is most often used in conversation, dialogue or metaphor. For example, “I was surprised to be growing up Pinocchio’s.”, written by Carlo Collodi when the little wooden puppet lies (YourDictionary, 2015). If this was obligatory intertextuality in a text, multiple references to this (or other novels of the same theme) would be used throughout the hypertext.


“Intertextuality is an area of ​​considerable ethical complexity” (Share, 2006). As intertextuality, by definition, it is often used for other purposes, it is often mistaken for plagiarism. Plagiarism is the act of “using or closely imitating the language and thoughts of another author without authorization-” (“Plagiarism”, 2015). Whilst this does not seem to include intertextuality, the intention and purpose of another work, When using intertextuality, it is usually a small excerpt of a hypotext that assists in the understanding of the new hypertext’s (Ivanic, 1998) original themes, characters or contexts. They use a part of another text and change its meaning (Jabri, 2004). This means that they are using other ideas to create or enhance their own new ideas, not simply plagiarising them. Intertextuality is based on the ‘creation of new ideas’, while plagiarism is often found in projects based on research to confirm your ideas. “There is much difference between imitating a man and counterfeiting him” (Benjamin Franklin, nd).

Related concepts

Linguist Norman Fairclough states that “intertextuality is a matter of recontextualization “. [14] According to Per Linell, recontextualization can be defined as the “dynamic transfer-and-transformation of something from one discourse / text-in-context … to another”. [15] Recontextualization can be relatively explicit-for example, when one text directly quotes another-or relatively implicit-as-when-the-same. [16] : 132-133

A number of scholars have observed that recontextualization can have important ideological and political consequences. For instance, Adam Hodges has studied how White House officials are recontextualized and altered to a general political view of political purposes, highlighting favorable aspects of the generalities while downplaying the damaging aspects. [17] Rhetorical scholar Jeanne Fahnestock has shown that when popular magazines recontextualize scientific research they enhance the uniqueness of the scientific findings and confer greater certainty on the reported facts. [18]Similarly, John Oddo found that American Colin Powell’s reporters covering a new discourse Powell’s discourse as they recontextualized it, bestowing Powell’s allegations with greater certainty and warranting and adding new evidence to support Powell’s claims. [16]

Oddo has also argued that recontextualization has a future-oriented counterpoint, which he dubs “precontextualization”. [19] According to Oddo, precontextualization is a form of anticipatory intertextuality which is “a text introduces and predicts elements of a symbolic event that is yet to unfold”. [16] : 78 For example, Oddo Contends, American Journalists Anticipated and Pretendered Colin Powell’s Address, drawing his future discourse into the normative present.

Examples and history

James Joyce ‘s 1922 novel Ulysses bears an intertextual relationship to Homer ‘s Odyssey .

While the concept of intertextuality is associated with post-modernism , the device itself is not new. New Testament passages quote from the Old Testament and Old Testament books such as Deuteronomy or the Prophets refer to the events described in Exodus (for discussions on using ‘intertextuality’ to describe the use of the Old Testament in the New Testament, see Porter 1997; Oropeza 2013). Whereas a redaction critic Would use Such intertextuality to argue for a particular order and process of the authorship of the books in question, literary criticismtakes a synchronic view that deals with the texts in their final form, as an interconnected body of literature . This interconnected body extends to later poems and paintings that refer to Biblical narratives, just as other texts build networks around Greek and Roman Classical history and mythology. Bullfinch’s 1855 work The Age Of Fable served as an introduction to such an intertextual network; citation needed ]according to its author, it was intended “… for the reader of English literature, of sex, who wishes to understand the allusions so frequently made by public speakers, lecturers, essayists, and poets …” .

Even the nomenclature “new” and “old” (testament) reframes the real context that the Jewish Torah had been usurped by followers of a new faith wishing to co-opt the original one.

Sometimes intertextuality is taken as plagiarism in the box of Spanish writer Lucía Etxebarria whose poem Estación de Infierno collection (2001) was found to contain metaphors and verses from Antonio Colinas . Etxebarria claim that she admired and applied intertextuality. quote needed ]

Some examples of intertextuality in literature include:

  • East of Eden (1952) by John Steinbeck : A retelling of the story of Genesis, set in the Salinas Valley of Northern California.
  • Ulysses (1922) by James Joyce : A retelling of Homer’s Odyssey , set in Dublin.
  • The Dead Fathers Club (2006) by Matt Haig : A retelling of Shakespeare ‘s Hamlet , set in modern England.
  • A Thousand Acres (1991) by Jane Smiley : A retelling of Shakespeare ‘s King Lear , set in rural Iowa.
  • Perelandra (1943) by CS Lewis : Another retelling of the story of Genesis, also leaning on Milton’s Lost Paradise , but set on the planet Venus.
  • Wide Sargasso Sea (1966) by Jean Rhys : A textual response is Charlotte Bronte ‘s Jane Eyre , the story of the ” mad woman in the attic ” Told from her perspective.
  • The Legend of Bagger Vance (1996) by Steven Pressfield : A retelling of the Bhagavad Gita, set in 1931 during an epic golf game.
  • Bridget Jones’s Diary (1996) by Helen Fielding : A modern chick lit romantic comedy replaying and referencing Jane Austen ‘s Pride and Prejudice .
  • Tortilla Flat (1935) by John Steinbeck : A retelling of the Arthurian legends, set in Monterey, CA during the interwar period.
  • Mourning Becomes Electra (1931) by Eugene O’Neill : A retelling of Aeschylus’ The Oresteia , set in the post-American Civil War South.

In addition, the concept of intertextuality has been used analytically outside the sphere of literature and art. For example, Christensen (2016) [20]Introduce the concept of intertextuality to the analysis of work practice at a hospital. The study shows that the set of documents used and produced at a hospital department can be said to a corpus of written texts. On the basis of the corpus, or subsections thereof, the actors in the field of interoperability between complementary texts in a particular situation, for a particular purpose. The intertext of a particular situation, including the complementary type, the intratextual type and the mediated type. In this way the concept of intertext has had an impact beyond literature and art studies.

See also

  • misappropriation
  • honkadori
  • Interdiscursivity
  • Julia Kristeva
  • Literary theory
  • meta
  • Post-structuralism
  • Semiotics
  • The Shape of Time: Remarks on the History of Things
  • Transmedia storytelling
  • Transtextuality
  • Umberto Eco


  1. Jump up^ Gerard Genette(1997)Paratexts p.18
  2. Jump up^ Hallo, William W. (2010)The World’s Oldest Literature: Studies in Sumerian Belles-Lettres p.608
  3. Jump up^ Cancogni, Annapaola (1985) The Mirage in the Mirror: Nabokov’s Ada and Its French Pre-Texts pp.203-213
  4. Jump up^ Irwin, 2, October 2004, pp. 227-242, 228.
  5. Jump up^ Irwin, 228.
  6. Jump up^ Kristeva, Julia. Desire in Language: A Semiotic Approach to Literature and Art. New York: Columbia University Press, 1980, p. 69.
  7. Jump up^ Gerard Genette,Palimpsests:Channa Newman and Claude Doubinsky (trans.), University of Nebraska Press, Lincoln NE and London.
  8. Jump up^ Kristeva, 66.
  9. Jump up^ Mitra, Ananda (1999). “Characteristics of the WWW Text: Tracing Discursive Strategies” . Journal of Computer-Mediated Communication . 5 (1): 1. doi : 10.1111 / j.1083-6101.1999.tb00330.x .
  10. Jump up^ Irwin, 227.
  11. Jump up^ Hutcheon, Linda. A Theory of Parody: The Teachings of Twentieth-Century Art Forms. New York: Methuen, 1985.
  12. Jump up^ Fairclough, Norman (1992). Discourse and Social Change. Cambridge: Polity Press, 117.
  13. Jump up^ Agger, Gunhild Intertextuality Revisited: Dialogues and Negotiations in Media Studies. Canadian Journal of Aesthetics, 4, 1999.
  14. Jump up^ Fairclough, Norman. Analyzing Discourse: Textual Analysis for Social Research. New York: Routledge, 2003, p. 51.
  15. Jump up^ Linell, Per. “Discourse across boundaries: Recontextualizations and the blending of voices in professional discourse,”Text, 18, 1998, p. 154.
  16. ^ Jump up to:c Oddo, John. Intertextuality and the 24-Hour News Cycle: A Day in the Colin Powell’s Rhetorical Life of UN Address. East Lansing, MI: Michigan State University Press, 2014.
  17. Jump up^ Hodges, Adam. “The Politics of Recontextualization: Discursive Competition of Claims of Iranian Involvement in Iraq,”Discourse & Society, 19 (4), 2008, 483-505.
  18. Jump up^ Fahnestock, Jeanne. “Accommodating Science: The Rhetorical Life of Scientific Facts,”Written Communication, 3 (3), 1986, 275-296.
  19. Jump up^ Oddo, John. “Precontextualization and the Rhetoric of Futurity: Colin Powell’s Foretelling,” UN Address on NBC News, “Discourse & Communication, 7 (1), 2013, 25-53.
  20. Jump up^ Christensen, LR (2016). On Intertext in Chemotherapy: An Ethnography of Text in Medical Practice. Computer Supported Cooperative Work (CSCW): The Journal of Collaborative Computing and Work Practices. Volume 25, Issue 1, pp 1-38