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Intertextuality is the shaping of a text's meaning by another text. It is the interconnection between similar or related works of literature that reflect and influence an audience's interpretation of the text. Intertextuality is the relation between texts that are inflicted by means of quotations and allusion.[1] Intertextual figures include allusion, quotation, calque, plagiarism, translation, pastiche and parody.[2][3][4] It is a literary device that creates an 'interrelationship between texts' and generates related understanding in separate works.[5] These references are made to influence the reader and add layers of depth to a text, based on the readers' prior knowledge and understanding. The structure of intertextuality in turn depends on the structure of influence.[6] It is also a literary discourse strategy utilised by writers in novels, poetry, theatre and even in non-written texts (such as performances and digital media).[7] Examples of intertextuality are an author's borrowing and transforming 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.[8][page needed] Intertextuality can be produced in texts using a variety of functions including allusion, quotation and referencing.[9] It has two types: referential and typological intertextuality. Referential intertextuality refers to the use of fragments in texts and the typological intertextuality refers to the use of pattern and structure in typical texts.[10] However, intertextuality is not always intentional and can be utilised inadvertently. A distinction can also be made between iterability and presupposition. Iterability makes reference to the "repeatability" of certain text that is composed of "traces", pieces of other texts that help constitute its meaning. Presupposition makes a reference to assumptions a text makes about its readers and its context.[11] As philosopher William Irwin wrote, the term "has come to have almost as many meanings as users, from those faithful to Julia Kristeva's original vision to those who simply use it as a stylish way of talking about allusion and influence".[12]


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

Julia Kristeva was the first to coin the term "intertextuality" (intertextualité) in an attempt to synthesize Ferdinand de Saussure's semiotics—his study of how signs derive their meaning within the structure of a text—with Bakhtin's dialogism—his theory which suggests a 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.[12] For Kristeva,[13] "the notion of intertextuality replaces the notion of intersubjectivity" when we realize that meaning is not transferred directly from writer to reader but 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 part of some other conversation, or as part 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 does not reside in the text, but is produced by the reader in relation not only to the text in question, but also the complex network of texts invoked in the reading process.

While the theoretical 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; Oropeza & Moyise, 2016). 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 criticism takes 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 either sex, who wishes to comprehend the allusions so frequently made by public speakers, lecturers, essayists, and poets...".

Sometimes intertextuality is taken as plagiarism as in the case of Spanish writer Lucía Etxebarria whose poem collection Estación de infierno (2001) was found to contain metaphors and verses from Antonio Colinas. Etxebarria claimed that she admired him and applied intertextuality.[citation needed]


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-examines "intertextuality" as a production within texts, rather than as a series of relationships between different texts. Some postmodern theorists [14] 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" [15] and part of a larger mosaic of texts, just as each hypertext can be a web of links and part of the whole World-Wide Web. The World-Wide Web has been theorized as a unique realm of reciprocal intertextuality, in which no particular text can claim centrality, yet the Web text eventually produces an image of a community—the group of people who write and read the text using specific discursive strategies.[16]

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.

Examples in literature[edit]

Some examples of intertextuality in literature include:


Intertextuality and intertextual relationships can be separated into three types: obligatory, optional and accidental.[17] These variations depend on two key factors: the intention of the writer, and the significance of the reference. The distinctions between these types and those differences between categories are not absolute and exclusive but instead, are manipulated in a way that allows them to co-exist within the same text.[18]


Obligatory 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 regarded as inadequate.[17] Obligatory intertextuality relies on the reading or understanding of a prior hypotext, before full comprehension of the hypertext can be achieved.[19]

As an example, Maria Mitchell analyzes the obligatory intertextuality of Tom Stoppard's Rosencrantz and Guildenstern Are Dead' with Shakespeare's Hamlet.[20] It is in Hamlet where we first meet Rosencrantz and Guildenstern, and as the plot of Rosencrantz and Guildenstern Are Dead unravels, specific scenes from Hamlet are actually performed and viewed from a different perspective. According to Mitchell, this understanding of the hypotext, Hamlet, gives deeper meaning to the pretext as many of the implicit themes from Rosencrantz and Guildenstern are more recognizable.


Optional intertextuality has a less vital impact on the significance of the hypertext. It is a possible, but not essential, intertextual relationship that if recognized, the connection will slightly shift the understanding of the text.[17] Optional Intertextuality means it is possible to find a connection to multiple texts of a single phrase, or no connection at all.[8][page needed] The intent of the writer when using optional intertextuality, is to pay homage to the 'original' writers, or to reward those who have 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. According to Emily Keller, J. K. Rowling's Harry Potter series shares many similarities with J. R. R. Tolkien's Lord of the Rings trilogy. Keller says that they both apply the use of 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.[21]


Accidental intertextuality is when readers often connect a text with another text, cultural practice or a personal experience, without there being any tangible anchorpoint within the original text.[17] The writer has no intention of making an intertextual reference and it is completely upon the reader's own prior knowledge that these connections are made.[22] Often when reading a book or viewing a film a memory will be triggered in the viewers' mind. For example, when reading Herman Melville's Moby-Dick, a reader may use his or her prior experiences to make a connection between the size of the whale and the size of the ship.

Competing terms[edit]

Some critics have complained that the ubiquity of the term "intertextuality" in postmodern criticism has crowded out related terms and important nuances. Irwin (227) laments that intertextuality has eclipsed allusion as an object of literary study while lacking the latter term's clear definition.[12] Linda Hutcheon argues that excessive interest in intertextuality rejects the role of the author, because intertextuality can be found "in the eye of the beholder" and does not entail a communicator's intentions. By contrast, in A Theory of Parody Hutcheon notes parody always features an author who actively encodes a text as an imitation with critical difference.[23] However, there have also been attempts at more closely defining different types of intertextuality. The Australian media scholar John Fiske has made a distinction between what he labels 'vertical' and 'horizontal' intertextuality. Horizontal intertextuality denotes references that are on the 'same level', i.e. when books make references to other books, whereas vertical intertextuality is found when, say, a book makes a reference to film or song or vice versa.[24] Similarly, Linguist Norman Fairclough distinguishes between 'manifest intertextuality' and 'constitutive intertextuality'.[25] The former signifies intertextual elements such as presupposition, negation, parody, irony, etc. The latter signifies the interrelationship of discursive features in a text, such as structure, form, or genre. Constitutive Intertextuality is also referred to interdiscursivity,[26] though, generally interdiscursivity refers to relations between larger formations of texts.

Related concepts[edit]

Linguist Norman Fairclough states that "intertextuality is a matter of recontextualization".[27] According to Per Linell, recontextualization can be defined as the "dynamic transfer-and-transformation of something from one discourse/text-in-context ... to another".[28] Recontextualization can be relatively explicit—for example, when one text directly quotes another—or relatively implicit—as when the "same" generic meaning is rearticulated across different texts.[29]: 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 recontextualized and altered a military general's comments for political purposes, highlighting favorable aspects of the general's utterances while downplaying the damaging aspects.[30] Rhetorical scholar Jeanne Fahnestock has found that when popular magazines recontextualize scientific research they enhance the uniqueness of the scientific findings and confer greater certainty on the reported facts.[31] Similarly, John Oddo stated that American reporters covering Colin Powell's 2003 U.N. speech transformed Powell's discourse as they recontextualized it, bestowing Powell's allegations with greater certainty and warrantability and even adding new evidence to support Powell's claims.[29]

Oddo has also argued that recontextualization has a future-oriented counterpoint, which he dubs "precontextualization".[32] According to Oddo, precontextualization is a form of anticipatory intertextuality wherein "a text introduces and predicts elements of a symbolic event that is yet to unfold".[29]: 78  For example, Oddo contends, American journalists anticipated and previewed Colin Powell's U.N. address, drawing his future discourse into the normative present.


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.[33] This means it is most closely linked to both obligatory and accidental intertextuality, as the 'allusion' made relies on the listener or viewer knowing about the original source. It is also seen as accidental, however, as they are normally phrases that are so frequently or casually used, that the true significance of the words is not fully appreciated. Allusion is most often used in conversation, dialogue or metaphor. For example, "I was surprised his nose was not growing like Pinocchio's." This makes a reference to The Adventures of Pinocchio, written by Carlo Collodi when the little wooden puppet lies.[34] 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 in art: "Nur eine Waffe taugt" (Richard Wagner, Parsifal, act III), by Arnaldo dell'Ira, ca. 1930

"Intertextuality is an area of considerable ethical complexity".[35] As intertextuality, by definition, involves the (sometimes) purposeful use of other's work without proper citation, it is often mistaken for plagiarism. Plagiarism is the act of "using or closely imitating the language and thoughts of another author without authorization-".[33] Whilst this does seem to include intertextuality, the intention and purpose of using of another's work is what allows intertextuality to be excluded from this definition. When using intertextuality, it is usually a small excerpt of a hypotext that assists in the understanding of the new hypertext's original themes, characters or contexts.[8][page needed] They use a part of another text and change its meaning by placing it in a different context.[36] This means that they are using other's ideas to create or enhance their own new ideas, not simply plagiarising them. Intertextuality is based on the 'creation of new ideas', whilst plagiarism is often found in projects based on research to confirm your ideas.

Non-literary uses[edit]

In addition, the concept of intertextuality has been used analytically outside the sphere of literature and art. For example, Christensen (2016) [37] introduces the concept of intertextuality to the analysis of work practice at a hospital. The study shows that the ensemble of documents used and produced at a hospital department can be said to form a corpus of written texts. On the basis of the corpus, or subsections thereof, the actors in cooperative work create intertext between relevant (complementary) texts in a particular situation, for a particular purpose. The intertext of a particular situation can be constituted by several kinds of intertextuality, including the complementary type, the intratextual type and the mediated type. In this manner the concept of intertext has had an impact beyond literature and art studies.

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Kaźmierczak, Marta (2019-12-15). "Intertextuality as Translation Problem: Explicitness, Recognisability and the Case of "Literatures of Smaller Nations"". Russian Journal of Linguistics. 23 (2): 362–382. doi:10.22363/2312-9182-2019-23-2-362-382. ISSN 2312-9212.
  2. ^ Gerard Genette (1997) Paratexts p.18
  3. ^ Hallo, William W. (2010) The World's Oldest Literature: Studies in Sumerian Belles-Lettres p.608
  4. ^ Cancogni, Annapaola (1985) The Mirage in the Mirror: Nabokov's Ada and Its French Pre-Texts pp.203-213
  5. ^ "Definition of Intertextuality", "", Retrieved on 15 March 2018.
  6. ^ Clayton, John B. (1991). Influence and Intertextuality in Literary History. Univ of Wisconsin Press. ISBN 9780299130343.
  7. ^ Gadavanij, Savitri. "Intertextuality as Discourse Strategy", School of Language and Communication, Retrieved 15 March 2018.
  8. ^ a b c Ivanić, Roz (1998). Writing and identity: The discoursal construction of identity in academic writing. Amsterdam, Netherlands: John Benjamins Publishing Co.
  9. ^ Hebel, Udo J (1989). Intertextuality, Allusion, and Quotation: An International Bibliography of Critical Studies (Bibliographies and Indexes in World Literature). Greenwood Press. ISBN 978-0313265174.
  10. ^ Mayer, Rolf (1990). "Abstraction, Context, and Perspectivization – Evidentials in Discourse Semantics". Theoretical Linguistics. 16 (2–3). doi:10.1515/thli.1990.16.2-3.101. ISSN 0301-4428. S2CID 62219490.
  11. ^ Porter, James E. (1986). "Intertextuality and the discourse community". Rhetoric Review. 5 (1): 34–47. doi:10.1080/07350198609359131. ISSN 0735-0198. S2CID 170955347.
  12. ^ a b c Irwin,2, October 2004, pp. 227–242, 228.
  13. ^ Kristeva, Julia (1980). Desire in language : a semiotic approach to literature and art. New York: Columbia University Press. p. 66. ISBN 0231048068. OCLC 6016349.
  14. ^ Gerard Genette, Palimpsests: literature in the second degree, Channa Newman and Claude Doubinsky (trans.), University of Nebraska Press, Lincoln NE and London.
  15. ^ Kristeva, 66.
  16. ^ 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.
  17. ^ a b c d Fitzsimmons, John (2013). "Romantic and contemporary poetry: readings". Retrieved 2018-03-15.
  18. ^ Marrapodi, Michele (2004). Shakespeare, Italy, and intertextuality. Manchester: Manchester University Press. ISBN 9780719066672. OCLC 56657010.
  19. ^ Jacobmeyer, Hannah. "Ever After: A study in intertextuality", Carl Hanser Verlag, 1998. Retrieved on 15 March 2018.
  20. ^ Mitchell, Marea (2007). "Hamlet and Rosencrantz and Guildenstern are dead: transformations and adaptation". Sydney Studies in English. 33: 39–55.
  21. ^ Keller, Emily. "Crafting a Masterpiece: The Genre Mosaic of Harry Potter" e-Vision, 2013.
  22. ^ Albertz, Rainer; Nogalski, James D.; Wöhrle, Jakob (2012-07-04). Perspectives on the formation of the Book of the Twelve : methodological foundations, redactional processes, historical insights. Albertz, Rainer, 1943-, Nogalski, James., Wöhrle, Jakob. Berlin. ISBN 9783110283761. OCLC 961557000.
  23. ^ Hutcheon, Linda. A Theory of Parody: The Teachings of Twentieth-Century Art Forms. New York: Methuen, 1985.
  24. ^ Fiske, John (1987). Television culture. London ; New York: Methuen. OCLC 16352774.
  25. ^ Fairclough, Norman (1992). Discourse and Social Change. Cambridge: Polity Press, 117.
  26. ^ Agger, Gunhild Intertextuality Revisited: Dialogues and Negotiations in Media Studies. Canadian Journal of Aesthetics, 4, 1999.
  27. ^ Fairclough, Norman. Analysing Discourse: Textual Analysis for Social Research. New York: Routledge, 2003, p. 51.
  28. ^ Linell, Per. "Discourse across boundaries: On recontextualizations and the blending of voices in professional discourse," Text, 18, 1998, p. 154.
  29. ^ a b c Oddo, John. Intertextuality and the 24-Hour News Cycle: A Day in the Rhetorical Life of Colin Powell's U.N. Address. East Lansing, MI: Michigan State University Press, 2014.
  30. ^ Hodges, Adam. "The Politics of Recontextualization: Discursive Competition over Claims of Iranian Involvement in Iraq, " Discourse & Society, 19(4), 2008, 483-505.
  31. ^ Fahnestock, Jeanne. "Accommodating Science: The Rhetorical life of Scientific Facts," Written Communication, 3(3), 1986, 275-296.
  32. ^ Oddo, John. "Precontextualization and the Rhetoric of Futurity: Foretelling Colin Powell's U.N. Address on NBC News," Discourse & Communication, 7(1), 2013, 25-53.
  33. ^ a b "the definition of plagiarism". Retrieved 2018-03-19.
  34. ^ "Allusion dictionary definition | allusion defined". Retrieved 2018-03-19.
  35. ^ Share, Perry (January 2005). "Managing intertextuality–meaning, plagiarism and power". ResearchGate.
  36. ^ Jabri, Muayyad (December 2003). "Change as shifting identities: a dialogic perspective" (PDF). Journal of Organizational Change Management. 17.
  37. ^ Christensen, L.R. (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

Additional citations[edit]

  • Comhrink, A. (n.d.). 'The matrix and the echo': Intertextual re-modelling in Stoppard's Rosencrantz and Guildenstern are dead. Attie de Lxmge[clarification needed].
  • Griffig, Thomas. Intertextualität in linguistischen Fachaufsätzen des Englischen und Deutschen (Intertextuality in English and German Linguistic Research Articles). Frankfurt a.M.: Lang, 2006.
  • Kliese, M. (2013). Little Lamb analysis. CQUniversity e-courses, LITR19049 - Romantic and Contemporary Poetry.
  • National Institute of Development Administration, The (NIDA), Bangkok 10240, Thailand.
  • Oropeza, B.J. "Intertextuality." In The Oxford Encyclopedia of Biblical Interpretation. Steven L. McKenzie, editor-in-chief. New York: Oxford University Press, 2013, Vol. 1, 453–63; B. J. Oropeza and Steve Moyise, eds. Exploring Intertextuality: Diverse Strategies for New Testament Interpretation of Texts (Eugene, Ore.: Cascade Books, 2016).
  • Pasco, Allan H. Allusion: A Literary Graft. 1994. Charlottesville: Rookwood Press, 2002.
  • Porter, Stanley E. "The Use of the Old Testament in the New Testament: A Brief Comment on Method and Terminology." In Early Christian Interpretation of the Scriptures of Israel: Investigations and Proposals (eds. C. A. Evans and J. A. Sanders; JSNTSup 14; Sheffield: Sheffield Academic Press, 1997), 79–96.

External links[edit]