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Intertextuality refers to the way in which texts gain meaning through their referencing or evocation of other texts.



A term most fully and originally explicated by Julia Kristeva in the school of poststructuralism, intertextuality has taken on a variety of meanings since her discussion of the term in the 1960s. On its most basic level, intertextuality is the concept of texts' borrowing of each others' words and concepts. This could mean as much as an entire ideological concept and as little as a word or phrase. As authors borrow pro-actively from previous texts, their work gains layers of meaning. Also, another feature of intertextuality is when a text is read in light of another text, in which case all of the assumptions and implications surrounding the other text shed light on and shape the way a text is interpreted.

In response to Ferdinand de Saussure's claim that signs gain their meaning through structure in a particular text, implying that meaning is transmitted directly from writer to reader, Kristeva argued that because of the influence of other texts on readers' consciousnesses, texts are always filtered through "codes" which bring the weight of other, previous meanings with them. We are, then, already imbricated in a web of meaning created by other texts and the connotations surrounding them as opposed to deriving meaning directly from the structure of signs as Saussure would have it in his semiotics.


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Critical Debates

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Related Terms



Kristeva, Julia. Desire in Language: A Semiotic Approach to Literature and Art.

Prince, Gerald. Dictionary of Narratology.

Hutcheon, Linda. A Theory of Parody: The Teachings of Twentieth-Century Art Forms.

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