Essay On Intertextuality



Founded in 1979, Atlantis is a peer-reviewed scholarly journal published twice-yearly by the Spanish Association of Anglo-American Studies (AEDEAN). It accepts original, unpublished research articles in English by scholars from both Spain and abroad. The scope of the journal covers literatures in English, Critical Theory, thought and culture, including film, of English-speaking communities, together with studies in linguistics, discourse analysis and pragmatics.  Pertinent cross-cultural and interdisciplinary analyses are welcome.  Reviews of scholarly monographs and interviews are also published. No submission should be under consideration for publication elsewhere. The suitability of manuscripts for publication is determined on the basis of double-blind reports by specialists in the area.  Selected papers are published both in print and online. Submissions may be made electronically at any time to the General Editor. Instructions for Submission and Guidelines are provided on the Atlantis website and in the printed copies.

Coverage: 1979-2015 (Vol. 1, No. 1 - Vol. 37, No. 2)

Moving Wall: 2 years (What is the moving wall?)

The "moving wall" represents the time period between the last issue available in JSTOR and the most recently published issue of a journal. Moving walls are generally represented in years. In rare instances, a publisher has elected to have a "zero" moving wall, so their current issues are available in JSTOR shortly after publication.
Note: In calculating the moving wall, the current year is not counted.
For example, if the current year is 2008 and a journal has a 5 year moving wall, articles from the year 2002 are available.

Terms Related to the Moving Wall
Fixed walls: Journals with no new volumes being added to the archive.
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Complete: Journals that are no longer published or that have been combined with another title.

ISSN: 02106124

Subjects: Language & Literature, History, History, American Studies, Area Studies, Humanities

Collections: Arts & Sciences IX Collection, Iberoamérica Collection

Do you borrow phrases and concepts from other works in your own? If yes, then you’re using intertextuality, perhaps even without knowing it.

Though it sounds intimidating at first, it’s quite a simple concept really:

Intertextuality denotes the way in which texts (any text, not just literature) gain meaning through their referencing or evocation of other texts.

Photo by fotologic

What Is Intertextuality?

This term was developed by the poststructuralist Julia Kristeva in the 1960s, and since then it’s been widely accepted by postmodern literary critics and theoreticians.

Her invention was a response to Ferdinand de Saussure’s theory and his claim that signs gain their meaning through structure in a particular text. She opposed his to her own, saying that readers are always influenced by other texts, sifting through their archives, when reading a new one.

Basically, when writers borrow from previous texts, their work acquires layers of meaning. In addition, when a text is read in the light of another text, all the assumptions and effects of the other text give a new meaning and influence the way of interpreting the original text. It serves as a subtheme, and reminds us of the double narratives in allegories.

In a recent short story I was writing, I included a quote by Turgenevat the beginning, which served as a sum-up of my main premise in the story.

A famous example of intertextuality in literature is James Joyce’s Ulysses as a retelling of The Odyssey, set in Dublin. Ernest Hemingway used the language of the metaphysical poet John Donne in naming his novel For Whom the Bell Tolls.

Even the Bible is considered an instance of intertextuality, since the New Testament quotes passages from the Old Testament.

Beware of Plagiarism

One thing you need to absolutely remember when evoking a reference to another work is to make it clear it’s a reference. Once intertextuality has gained popularity, there were cases of authors using phrases of other works, without indicating what they are doing. There’s a thin line between using intertextuality as a literary device and plagiarising, even if not intended.

Intertextuality as a Sophisticated Concept

A complex use of intertextuality is considered a sophisticated tool in writing. Rather than referencing phrases from other works, a refined use of intertextuality involves drawing upon an ideology, a concept, or even rhetoric from others.

Thus, you may explore the political ideology in your story by drawing upon the current rhetoric in politics. Alternatively, you may use a text source and explore it further.

Looked at it this way, the popular rewriting of fairy tales in modern contexts can be viewed as a highly cultured use of intertextuality.

To be sure, intertextuality is a powerful writing tool that shouldn’t be overlooked. It opens new possibilities and perspectives for constructing a story.

What other uses of intertextuality can you think of? Have you explored this literary device? Share your thoughts below.


Freewrite for fifteen minutes and include a reference (a word, phrase, concept, quotation etc.) of another work in your practice. When you’re done, post it in the comments.

As always, be supportive to the others.

Sophie Novak

Sophie Novak is an ultimate daydreamer and curious soul, who can be found either translating or reading at any time of day.
She originally comes from the sunny heart of the Balkans, Macedonia, and currently lives in the UK. You can follow her blog and connect with her on Twitter and Facebook.


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