What is intertextuality? How and to what effect is it used in the media?
Intertextuality can be discussed on many different levels. However, I have discovered that when thinking of intertextuality in contemporary media, my mind recalls those who founded intertextuality and are now an inspiration from their various approaches to this topic. Indeed, intertextuality mirrors its ever-present service as a way of formalizing a vast number of different techniques and effects in literature and in the media. Speaking in the light of this, I shall discuss the various concepts many linguistics reveal which revolve around the relationships between various interconnected texts in media studies. I also aim to explore intertextuality as a literary term, while I hope to illustrate the elements which reinforce intertextuality as an effective device used widely in the media today.
Firstly, however, I would like to discuss the term â€˜intertextuality’. Intertextuality can be described as the shaping of texts meaning to other texts. This idea portrays the meaning of a text belonging exclusively to its author’s intentions, as the former text to a reader’s referencing of one text in reading another. Intertextuality is the word coined by Julia Kristeva, a French linguist who has written much on this topic. She proposed the idea that a text should not be interpreted merely by its words, but also studied based on other works it has adapted. Kristeva referred to texts in terms of two axes: â€œhorizontal axis (subject-addressee) and vertical axis (text-context) coincide, bringing to light an important factor: each word (text) is an intersection of word (texts) where at least one other word (text) can be read.â€ (Kristeva, 1980) Bonding these two axes can be meant they are shared codes; which leaves every text and every reading depending on prior signs or symbols.
Kristeva declared that â€œevery text is from the outset under the jurisdiction of other discourses which impose a universe on itâ€ (Kristeva, 1980). In Mikhail Bakhtin’s work, these two axes, which he calls â€œdialogue and ambivalenceâ€ (Bakhtin: cited in Kristeva, 1980), are not clearly separated. He argues that â€œany text is constructed as a mosaic of quotation; any text is the absorption and transformation of another. The notion of intertextuality replaces that of intersubjectivity, and poetic language is read as at least double.â€ (Bakhtin: cited in Kristeva, 1980) This debate between Kristeva and Bakhtin shows that there are conflicting views
surrounding this topic concerning various terms applied; which open further discussion on the meaning of intertextuality as a literary term.
Kristeva follows to argue that any text, as a â€˜concept’ allows one to think about how language is arranged in ways which undercut its communicative purposes, meanwhile exposing the codes that classify the creation of linguistic messages. â€œThe text provides one with the conceptual means by which to theorize and thus analyze the formation and deformation of the human being that takes place in the circuits of symbolic exchange.â€ (Kristeva, 1980) On the other hand, Roland Barthes (1977) introduces his concept and definition to intertextuality as â€œwoven entirely with citations, references, echoes, cultural language which cut across in through and through in a vast stereophony. The intertextual in which every text is held, it itself being the text-between of another text, is not to be confused with some origin of the textâ€ rather â€œthe citation which go to make up a text anonymousâ€. (Barthes, 1977: cited in Graham Allen, 2003) However, Barthes declares that the concept of text is that related to the concept of intertextuality by explaining that â€œa text is… a multidimensional space in which a variety of writings, none of them original, blend and clash. The text is a tissue of quotations… The writer can only imitate a gesture that is always anterior, never original; his only power is to mix writings, to counter the ones with the others, in such a way as never to rest on any one of themâ€ (Barthes, 1977: cited in Allen, 2003). This shows that Barthes believes that text convey a meaning imparted to it by its author and is keen to avoid the misinterpretation of his defintion and relationship between â€˜text’ and â€˜intertextuality’, different from all linguistics. Conversely, it can be said that all the above arguments show the concept of intertextuality launched in order to identify a fundamental dialogue of discourses and texts.
Perhaps intertextuality â€œas a phenomenon presents certain difficulties precisely because it is so widespread. A particularly important problem has to do with the fact that the concept of intertextuality appears to be infinitely expandableâ€ (Allen, 2003). This problem is complicated when applied in literary studies. However, Jonathan Culler (1998) found a way much easier to explain; a way in which intertextuality can be a simpler term to understand. He applied â€œthe linguistic concept of presupposition to the way a text produces a â€˜pre-text’ –
or draws attention to its own conventions.â€(Culler 1998) Intertextuality through Culler’s quote can be explained, for instance; if a reader picks up a book and reads its introduction or the blurb (pre-text) and engages with it, and then later decides to buy the book in order to discover the â€˜full story’. Notably, texts do dialogues but â€œit could be difficult to imagine dialogues without some notion of the authorâ€ (Anker Gemzoe, 1997). In other words, Gemzoe explains that although work can be seen as part of an author’s belonging, it is usually difficult to read or analyse any text without some concept of the work. â€œThese objections do not invalidate the idea of intertextuality in literary studies, but they make it clear that it should be handled with careâ€ (Gemzoe, 1997).
Furthermore, Norman Fairclough (1992) and John Fiske (1991) comment on the concept of intertextuality to expose an awareness of both its â€œpromise and limitationsâ€. (Fairclough and Fiske: cited in Allen 2003) Fairclough thought to introduce a systematic approach to intertextuality in order to involve various â€œcategories and types designed to make the basic conceptâ€ (Fairclough, 1992) easier to apply. Accordingly, he points to a useful division between â€œâ€˜manifest intertextuality’ and â€˜interdiscursivity’â€ (Fairclough, 1992). Manifest intertextuality is implied to be subdivided into the following categories: â€œDiscourse representation, presupposition, negation, metadiscourse and ironyâ€ (Fairclough 1992). Interdiscursivity is more complicated because it â€œconstrues the categories in question as genres and stylesâ€ (Fairclough 1992). The idea of genre here, embraces the others as it sets the rules for styles and discourses. Culler states in his study of interdiscursivity that it â€œdepends on several presuppositionsâ€ (Culler, 1998).
However, Gemzoe draws particular attention to some significant theoretical suggestions involved in Kristeva’s earlier coining of the term â€˜intertextuality.’ In Gemzoe’s opinion â€œKristeva’s gesture involved a critical confrontation with the subject, representation, narrative and the work as an autonomous entityâ€ (Gemzoe, 1997). The subject and the idea of representation are changed by a written structure with its own structures of reference. Two of these four suggestions â€œcould make any use of the concept of intertextuality ambiguous in a
literary context, even if the concept is acknowledged as somehow indispensableâ€ (Gemzoe, 1997).
Generally, intertextuality is seen to be used widely in the media. We interact with media everyday during our daily routines. Wither we read newspapers before going to work, or listen to the radio while driving our cars, or watch the television or a film in our free time or even read an advertisement displayed on a wall; we are all part of this media world or society in which we live in. However, from all the above arguments and definitions, it has been clearly recognized that intertextuality is present in literary studies. However, in media studies, intertextuality is obvious in some types of media than others. Fiske (1987) identifies intertextuality as a main supplier to the ways in which media texts make meaning culturally. He argues that â€œtext relate to other text both similar, and different, and in doing so make meaning for audiencesâ€. In the light of this, I shall start identifying examples of intertextuality used in a newspaper article, television soap, and music videos and in films.
Not all newspapers contain intertextuality. The reason for this relates back to the type of paper. For examples, tabloids are known for their conversational and simple language which is written in favour for all age groups. Intertextuality is therefore most obvious in tabloids than in the â€˜quality’ paper. For instance, in the Daily Mail Online, there is an article on Rita Simon from EastEnders’ revealing: â€œI hate the muffin tops I’ve developed since having childrenâ€. This example of hating â€˜muffin tops’ is the way she expresses her feelings towards the un-likeliness to her round like shape of her bust and later claims she would like â€œperkier boobsâ€. This example of intertextuality was not seen as a directly clear and profound one; rather it was hidden through the phrases used to portray another image. This technique is used effectively in newspapers and in this example, to focus on a particular subject to overlap the significance of another subject.
Speaking of EastEnders, it can be said that the title of this soap itself, displays a clear heading of intertextuality in television. As known, EastEnders is set in the traditional working class area in the London Borough of Walford, in the â€˜East End’ of London. The word â€˜enders’ can be suggested to be the plural of the individual who lives in the east end, and thus this
represents the lifestyle of the east in London. Fiske states that â€œdiscourse about television is itself a social force. It is a major site of the meditation of television meanings, a site where television meanings fuse with other meanings into a new text to form a major interfaceâ€, (Fiske, 1987).
In examining a film’s intertextuality, therefore, it is best to look at the prior texts that influenced the film which that film takes up and makes into something new. Even if the film is mostly similar to its previous version, intertextuality can still be identified. For example, when discussing the filmâ€˜The Matrix’, as this film is an example of intertextuality. It draws upon texts of Christian, Buddhist, and Hindu religions. Also, the filmâ€˜Slumdog Millionaire’ is another film name which draws our attention to the original name of the international, most famous program â€˜Who Wants To Be A Millionaire?’ The film’s name derives from this well known program but is used to portray the life of a Mumbai teenage boy who grows up in the slums, becomes a contestant on the Indian version of â€œWho Wants To Be A Millionaire?â€
Following to this, music videos is a genre which is seen to rely heavily on the use of intertextuality to achieve a particular effect. Often this borrowing of a text to link it to a second one is stylistic. This means that a text will mimic or copy certain stylistic features of another text. Usually this is done in order to create a particular impact, although there may be instances where this borrowing may seem simply a matter of convenience to give a music video, for example, a particular look. For example, Christina Aguilera in her music video â€˜Hurt’ dyed her hair blonde and cut it short, used red lipstick and took on a Marilyn Monroe look; many of her fans believed she is one of the main proponents in bringing back the 1920s and 1940s.Â This, however, has always been the image of Marilyn in everybody’s mind; therefore Christina’s transformation had helped leave an impact on the viewers to sell her single quicker making it number one in the charts in 2005. For the viewers here, the power of the image of the original text (Marilyn Monroe) is likely to be carried through into the new text (Christina Aguilera).
In this study, I have interpreted the multiple meanings of intertextuality by many academics as a literary term and followed to examine how effective it is through examples I showed in the media. In conclusion to intertextuality in the media, it can be said that it acts as a â€˜communicative occurrence’; meaning that its presence helps analyse many genres, texts, media discourses etc. Without intertextuality, I believe it is partly difficult to understand where an original piece of text came from and how it developed into becoming a â€˜new’ version of that original. Although I did not study all the media type in order to finalize my opinion on intertextuality in the media, however I believe that with the continuous revolutionized techniques the media uses to portray any sort of text or image; intertextuality will need to keep up with this development and thus catch up with the what is so-called â€˜internet era’ in which we live in today.