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First, intertextuality was a product of the cultural and political upheaval in France in the 1960's. Julia Kristeva, most often identified as the originator of intertextuality,7 her teacher, Roland Barthes, and other poststructuralists, attempted to intellectually subvert what they perceived to be the bourgeois, elitist power structures of their context by redefining some of the basic elements of culture, the understanding of ‘text’ being one such element. Intertextuality at its inception was not an isolated or neutral intellectual observation, but ‘a means of ideological and cultural expression and of social transformation.’8 It was a tool of revolution. This said, there are those who would like to discredit the observation of intertextuality because of its beginnings (the Marxist, Maoist, Freudian, and generally subversive and revolutionary influences on Kristeva's thought).9 Acknowledging the In this method and the resulting thesis, I attempt to walk the line between the boundaries set out by D. Boyarin, “Issues for Further Discussion: A Response,” Semeia 69/70 (1995): Intertextuality is ‘neither some sort of game of allusion-hunting which some have taken it for, nor a self-indulgent mode of anything-goes exegesis….’ (294) Some other definitions of intertextuality: Kristeva's definition, ‘…tout texte se construit comme mosaïque de citations, tout texte est absorbtion et transformation d'un autre texte.’ J.
Glasgow: Fontana/Collins, 1977) 146. Ellen van Wolde: ‘The intertextual approach starts from the assumption that a writer's work should not be seen as a linear adaptation of another text but as a complex of relationships; the principle of causality is left behind. Moreover, in an intertextual analysis or interpretation of a text it is the reader who makes a text interfere with other texts. The writer assigns meaning to his own context and in interaction with other texts he shapes and forms his own text. The reader, in much the same way, assigns meaning to the generated text in interaction with other texts he knows. Without a reader a text is only a lifeless collection of words.’ E. van Wolde, “Trendy Intertextuality,” in Intertextuality in Biblical Writings: Essays in honour of Bas van Iersel (ed. S.
Draisma; Kampen: Uitgeversmaatschappij J.H. Kok, 1989) 47. J.W. Voelz: ‘…from an intertextual perspective…through the presence of a multiplicity of texts, both written and non-written, the meaning of a text
arises in the presence of the interpreter.’ J.W. Voelz, “Multiple Signs, Aspects of Meaning, and Self as Text:
Elements of Intertextuality,” Semeia 69/70 (1995) 150. [Voelz's emphasis.] It is largely thought that the concept of ‘dialogicity’ in the 1920's thought of Russian Formalist, Michael Bakhtin, may be a precursor to Kristeva's intertextuality. Note especially her own presentation of Bakhtin's thought in a 1966
article - J. Kristeva, “Word, Dialogue, Novel,” in The Kristeva Reader (trans. A. Jardine, et al.; ed. T. Moi; Oxford:
Blackwell, 1986) 34-61. A noted detractor of this is H.-P. Mai, “Bypassing Intertextuality,” in Intertextuality (ed.
H.F. Plett; Research in Text Theory 15; Berlin: Walter de Gruyter, 1991) who, among others, argues that ‘Bakhtin's relevance for the intertextual debate is rather doubtful.’ (33) An introduction to Kristeva's thought can be found in T. Moi's introduction to J. Kristeva, The Kristeva Reader, (ed. T. Moi; Oxford: Blackwell, 1986) 1-22.
G. Aichele and G.A. Phillips, “Introduction: Exegesis, Eisegesis, Intergesis,” Semeia 69/70 (1995) 9.
T.R. Hatina, “Intertextuality and Historical Criticism in New Testament Studies: Is There A Relationship?,” BibInt 7 (1999) charges that intertextuality is ‘inimical’ to historical criticism of the New Testament because of its roots and, even more so, the ‘fashionable’ and uncritical use of the term within biblical studies. (28-43) Hatina's critique is largely ideological, possibly echoing piety rather than scholarship. At the same time, his critique of the use of –2–
INTRODUCTIONcontext and motivation of its genesis, intertextuality is larger than its beginnings and continues to be a useful concept within semiotics, text linguistics, philosophy, and biblical studies. As such, intertextuality appears to be here to stay…at least for some time.
Second, intertextuality at its heart is a broad understanding of text. Given a dialogical or conversational understanding of text/intertext, the question of what a text is broadens ad infinitum to include, not merely written texts, but history, culture, art, etc. Life becomes the model for text.10 As lives lived are inevitably lived in conversation with the other,11 so texts participate in a dialogical existence with the other (intertext/reader/context) in the reading of the reader. Human existence at its very nature is in dialogue with the world around it.12 As dialogue is at the root of human existence, so it is at the heart of text.
Also along these lines, within the discussion of intertextuality the boundaries of text are always questionable, always permeable. In a sense, all texts are intertexts. This is evident in H.F.
Plett's definitions of ‘text’ and ‘intertext’:
A text may be regarded as an autonomous sign structure, delimited and coherent. Its boundaries are indicated by its beginning, middle and end, its coherence by the deliberately interrelated conjunction of its constituents. An intertext, on the other hand, is characterized by attributes that exceed it. It is not delimited, but de-limited, for its constituents refer to constituents of one or several other texts. Therefore it has a twofold coherence: an intratextual one which guarantees the immanent integrity of the text, and an intertextual one which creates structural relations between itself and other texts.13 Plett's own distinction between text and intertext both questions whether or not there is such a thing as a text that is not an intertext and stresses what Derrida calls the débordement, or the spillage of text in which the borders and
divisions commonly ascribed to text are called into question. In Derrida’s words:
…a “text” that is henceforth no longer a finished corpus of writing, some content enclosed in a book or its margins, but a differential network, a fabric of traces referring endlessly to something other than itself, to other differential traces. Thus the text overruns all the limits assigned to it so far (not submerging or drowning them in an undifferentiated homogeneity, but rather making them more complex, dividing and multiplying strokes and lines) – all the intertextuality without some knowledge of its philosophical baggage may be on the mark. van Wolde, “Trendy Intertextuality,” takes up a similar argument without the baggage of Hatina's historical-critical piety. (43-49) ‘Being that can be understood is language,’ Gadamer, Truth and Method, 474.
‘Language is not an instrument that I can pick-up and put down at will; it is always there, surrounding and invading all I experience understand, judge, decide, and act upon. I belong to my language far more than it belongs to me, and through that language I find myself participating in this particular history and society.’ D. Tracy, Plurality and Ambiguity: Hermeneutics, Religion, Hope, (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1987).
Tracy, Plurality and Ambiguity, writes about ‘reality’ in a similar way: ‘Reality is neither out there or in here.
Reality is constituted by the interaction between a text, whether book or world, and a questioning interpreter.’ (48) Heinrich F. Plett, “Intertextualities,” in Intertextuality, Heinrich F. Plett, ed. (RTT 15; Berlin/New York: Walter de Gruyter, 1991): 5. The trajectory of Plett's comments are to play with the paradoxical relationship of text and intertext, proposing a continuum between text and intertext with a sliding scale of intertextuality. The extreme ends of this continuum he describes thus: ‘…a text which is no intertext, and an intertext which is not text. What does this mean? The text which has no interrelations with other texts at all realizes its autonomy perfectly. It is selfsufficient, self-identical, a self-contained monad – but is no longer communicable. On the other hand, the intertext runs the risk of dissolving completely in its interrelations with other texts. In extreme cases it exchanges its internal coherence completely for an external one. Its total dissolution makes it relinquish its beginning, middle and end. It loses its identity and disintegrates into numerous text particles which only bear an extrinsic reference. It is doubtful that such a radical intertext is communicable at all.’ (6)
limits, everything that was to be set up in opposition to writing (speech, life, the world, the real, history, and what not, every field of reference – to body or mind, conscious or unconscious, politics, economics, and so forth).14 Derrida points out that without the broader context of language, individual words, sentences, even whole texts are meaningless. Without a context in the language world of the reader, the text is meaningless. It follows, then, that all texts in as much as they are a part of a broader language world are intertexts and products of and participants in ‘various cultural discourses.’ (Barthes) Third, another aspect of intertextuality is the placement of meaning or the generation of meaning in the conversation between text/intertext/reader. Because of the conversational nature of meaning, it follows that meaning is fundamentally not static. In the words of G. Phillips, ‘…there is no eschatological reader who at some point in time and space will read the text right, will critique the text without the possibility of another word, a remainder.’16 Insofar as intertextuality is an exploration of meanings or mosaic of meanings with the working assumption that there is no one meaning, it follows the deconstructionist line of thought that pushes language and words to the edge of ‘meaning’ – especially when this means the meaning.
Rather, intertextuality places an emphasis on the readers of texts and their dynamic interaction with the intertextual mosaic encountered/perceived in a text. If a text is an intertext, and an intertext is a mosaic of other texts, it follows that it is the reader’s place to trace the meaning of a text by interpreting the text’s intertextuality.17 G. Phillips proposes a term for this interaction – ‘intergesis’ – an understanding that the space between texts is the place from which meaning emerges. ‘Meaning does not lie “inside” texts but rather in the space “between” texts.
J. Derrida, “Living On: Border Line,” in Deconstruction and Criticism (trans. J. Hulbert; ed. H. Bloom, et al.;
London: Routledge & Kegan Paul, 1979) 81-82. Also quoted by G.A. Phillips, “Sign/Text/Différance: The Contribution of Intertextual Theory to Biblical Criticism,” in Intertextuality (ed. H.F. Plett; Research in Text Theory 15; Berlin & New York: Walter de Gruyter, 1991).
I find Phillips’ description of Derrida’s motive helpful here:
‘Derrida makes the outlandish claim that the text overruns everything established as a limit to its working, be that limit defined in traditional terms as the textual corpus, the reader’s intended meaning, or even the historical context itself. Derrida attempts to defamiliarize the “natural” distinction between the textual and the extratextual; his aim is to compel reflection upon the taken-for-grantedness of the boundary conditions and their relationship to the various “analytico-referential” interpretive strategies used to read texts today…. [Derrida’s] effort is to direct slumbering attention to the border and the fact of the border as a way of lifting a corner of the camouflage so as to draw attention to the natural, unreflected-upon distinction that allows the modern critic to so neatly separate text from context from reader from the extratextual and to discover the ‘truth’ of the text, i.e., its meaning, its referent, its world-of-meaning, etc.’ Phillips, “Sign/Text/Différance,”.
Grossman, Reading for History, asserts three observations about text: (1) ‘texts are not fixed entities and… their meanings depend on how they are interpreted,’ (2) ‘that interpretations of even the most authoritarian texts can change over time, depending on the audiences’ expectations and agendas,’ and (3) ‘that competing interpretations of a text may arise even in a single interpretive community.’ (ix) Also along these lines, D.R. Blumenthal, “Many Voices, One Voice,” Judaism 47 (1998) in his “(re)writing” of Genesis 1 from the perspective of Medieval Jewish commentators, Ramban, Rashi, Rashbam, and Ibn Ezra, attempts to show the ‘competing interpretations’ (Grossman) and what Blumenthal calls the ‘multivocal, plurisignificant’ nature of the text. (468) Phillips, “Sign/Text/Différance,” 92. Derrida, “Living On: Border Line,” makes a similar observation: ‘…no one inflexion enjoys absolute privilege.’ (78) ‘…there is one place where this multiplicity [intertextual mosaic] is focused and that place is the reader, not, as was hitherto said, the author. The reader is the space on which all the quotations that make up a writing are inscribed…’ Barthes, “From Work to Text,” 148.