Hypertext (semiotics)

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Hypertext, in semiotics, is a text which alludes, derives from, or relates to an earlier work or hypotext.[1] For example, James Joyce's Ulysses could be regarded as one of the many hypertexts deriving from Homer's Odyssey; Angela Carter's "The Tiger's Bride" can be considered a hypertext which relates to an earlier work, or hypotext, the original fairy-story Beauty and the Beast. Hypertexts may take a variety of forms including imitation, parody, and pastiche.

The word was defined by the French theorist Gérard Genette as follows: "Hypertextuality refers to any relationship uniting a text B (which I shall call the hypertext) to an earlier text A (I shall, of course, call it the hypotext), upon which it is grafted in a manner that is not that of commentary."[2] So, a hypertext derives from hypotext(s) through a process which Genette calls transformation, in which text B "evokes" text A without necessarily mentioning it directly ".[3]

Note that this technical use of the word in semiotics differs from its use to mean a link in the field of , although the two are related. Liestøl's study of Genette's narratological model and hyperfiction considers how they are related and suggests that hyperfiction narratives have four levels:[4]

  • 1. Discourse as discoursed;
  • 2. Discourse as stored;
  • 3. Story as discoursed;
  • 4. Stories as stored (potential story lines).


  1. ^ Martin, Bronwen (2006). Key Terms in Semiotics. Continuum. p. 99.
  2. ^ Genette, Gérard (1997). Palimpsests: Literature in the Second Degree. U of Nebraska Press. p. 5.
  3. ^ Herman, David (1998). Palimpsests: Literature in the Second Degree (review). MFS Modern Fiction Studies. pp. 1043–8.
  4. ^ Liestøl, Gunnar (1994). "Wittgenstein, Genette, and the Reader's Narrative in Hypertext". In Landow, George P. (ed.). Hyper/Text/Theory. Johns Hopkins UP. p. 97.