[Notes] Intertextuality by Daniel Chandler

  • “Intertextuality refers to far more than the ‘influences’ of writers on each other. For structuralists, language has powers which not only exceed individual control but also determine subjectivity. Structuralists sought to counter what they saw as a deep-rooted bias in literary and aesthetic thought which emphasized the uniqueness of both texts and authors (Sturrock 1986, 87). The ideology of individualism (with its associated concepts of authorial ‘originality’, ‘creativity’ and ‘expressiveness’) is a post-Renaissance legacy which reached its peak in Romanticism but which still dominates popular discourse. ‘Authorship’ was a historical invention. Concepts such as ‘authorship’ and ‘plagiarism’ did not exist in the Middle Ages. ‘Before 1500 or thereabouts people did not attach the same importance to ascertaining the precise identity of the author of a book they were reading or quoting as we do now’ (Goldschmidt 1943, 88). Saussure emphasized that language is a system which pre-exists the individual speaker. For structuralists and poststructuralists alike we are (to use the stock Althusserian formulation) ‘always already’ positioned by semiotic systems – and most clearly by language. Contemporary theorists have referred to the subject as being spoken by language. Barthes declares that ‘it is language which speaks, not the author; to write is… to reach the point where only language acts, “performs”, and not “me”‘ (Barthes 1977, 143). When writers write they are also written. To communicate we must utilize existing concepts and conventions. Consequently, whilst our intention to communicate and what we intend to communicate are both important to us as individuals, meaning cannot be reduced to authorial ‘intention’. To define meaning in terms of authorial intention is the so-called ‘intentional fallacy’ identified by W K Wimsatt and M C Beardsley of the ‘New Critical’ tendency in literary criticism (Wimsatt & Beardsley 1954). We may, for instance, communicate things without being aware of doing so. As Michael de Montaigne wrote in 1580, ‘the work, by its own force and fortune, may second the workman, and sometimes out-strip him, beyond his invention and knowledge’ (Essays, trans. Charles Cotton: ‘Of the art of conferring’ III, 8). Furthermore, in conforming to any of the conventions of our medium, we act as a medium for perpetuating such conventions.” [Chandler. 2014]


  • “In 1968 Barthes announced ‘the death of the author’ and ‘the birth of the reader’, declaring that ‘a text’s unity lies not in its origin but in its destination’ (Barthes 1977, 148). The framing of texts by other texts has implications not only for their writers but also for their readers. Fredric Jameson argued that ‘texts come before us as the always-already-read; we apprehend them through the sedimented layers of previous interpretations, or – if the text is brand-new – through the sedimented reading habits and categories developed by those inherited interpretive traditions’ (cited in Rodowick 1994, 286, where it was, with delicious irony in this context, cited from Tony Bennett). A famous text has a history of readings. ‘All literary works… are “rewritten”, if only unconsciously, by the societies which read them’  (Eagleton 1983, 12). No-one today – even for the first time – can read a famous novel or poem, look at a famous painting, drawing or sculpture, listen to a famous piece of music or watch a famous play or film without being conscious of the contexts in which the text had been reproduced, drawn upon, alluded to, parodied and so on. Such contexts constitute a primary frame which the reader cannot avoid drawing upon in interpreting the text. The concept of intertextuality reminds us that each text exists in relation to others. In fact, texts owe more to other texts than to their own makers. Michel Foucault declared that: The frontiers of a book are never clear-cut: beyond the title, the first lines and the last full stop, beyond its internal configuration and its autonomous form, it is caught up in a system of references to other books, other texts, other sentences: it is a node within a network… The book is not simply the object that one holds in one’s hands… Its unity is variable and relative. (Foucault 1974, 23)” [Chandler. 2014]


  • “The notion of intertextuality problematizes the idea of a text having boundaries and questions the dichotomy of ‘inside’ and ‘outside’: where does a text ‘begin’ and ‘end’? What is ‘text’ and what is ‘context’? The medium of television highlights this issue: it is productive to think of television in terms of a concept which Raymond Williams called ‘flow’ rather than as a series of discrete texts. Much the same applies to the World Wide Web, where hypertext links on a page can link it directly to many others. However, texts in any medium can be thought of in similar terms. The boundaries of texts are permeable. Each text exists within a vast ‘society of texts’ in various genres and media: no text is an island entire of itself. A useful semiotic technique is comparison and contrast between differing treatments of similar themes (or similar treatments of different themes), within or between different genres or media. Whilst the term intertextuality would normally be used to refer to allusions to other texts, a related kind of allusion is what might be called ‘intratextuality’ – involving internal relations within the text. Within a single code (e.g. a photographic code) these would be simply syntagmatic relationships (e.g. the relationship of the image of one person to another within the same photograph). However, a text may involve several codes: a newspaper photograph, for instance, may have a caption (indeed, such an example serves to remind us that what we may choose to regard as a discrete ‘text’ for analysis lacks clearcut boundaries: the notion of intertextuality emphasizes that texts have contexts). ” [Chandler. 2014]

Chandler, D. (2014) Intertextuality. [Online] Visual Memory. March 7th. Available from: http://visual-memory.co.uk/daniel/Documents/S4B/sem09.html [Last Accessed: 11/02/2017]

[Notes] Intertextuality. How text rely on other texts by Bazerman.

  • “Intertextuality. The explicit and implicit relations that a text or utterance has to prior, contemporary and potential future texts. Through such relations a text evokes a representation of the discourse situation, the textual resources that bear on the situation, and how the current text positions itself and draws on other texts. Although this is now a widely recognized phenomenon, there is not a standard shared analytic vocabulary for considering the elements and kinds of intertextuality. The terms I introduce next are an attempt to capture key dimensions and aspects of intertextuality.” [Bazerman. 2004:86]

  • Intertextual Distance or Reach. Intertextual relations are also usually most easily recognizable when the textual borrowings involve some distance in time, space, culture, or institution. Phrases that are common and unremarkable in sports such as ‘stepping up to the plate’ – just part of the ordinary way of talking that everyone shares – become a bit remarkable when they start appearing in political contexts, such as when congressperson talks about courage to take a stand on an issue by talking about ‘stepping up to the plate.’ This phrase, wused metaphorically, can signal us that the political situation is being viewed like a sporting event and that the standing up for a position is being viewed as an individual competitive performance. It would be even more likely to be noticed and remarked on if the term turned up in a piece of legislation. How far a text travels for its intertextual relations we can call the intertextual reach. Often a document draws on bits of text that appear earlier in the text, echoing and building on it, in what we might call intratextual reference. [Bazerman. 2004:89]


Bazerman, C., 2004. Intertextuality: How texts rely on other texts. What writing does and how it does it: An introduction to analyzing texts and textual practices, pp.83-96.

[Notes] Film Genre Reader IV by B. Grant.

  • 517qs1wzipl-_sx324_bo1204203200_“The western is founded, then, on a tremendously rich confluence of romantic narrative and archetypal imagery modified and localized by recent American experience— the potential source of a number of conflicting but interrelated streams of thought and imagery.” [Grant. 2012:224]
  • “Actual people became the basis of heroes of dime-novel sagas in a constant process of romanticizing actuality in the service of sentimental fiction and the adventure story. The western was also taken up on the stage, becoming one form of melodrama, sometimes with famous western characters playing themselves, and in the Wild West show. In addition to these developments, the representations of the West in American painting may well have influenced attitudes and helped to create a specifically visual repertoire of western imagery. It is difficult to locate with any precision the film western’s debt to these sources, but there are several potentially interesting areas. It is plausible to suggest that landscape painters, themselves probably influenced by contemporary attitudes, should in turn have contributed to ways in which the American landscape was thought of, both in terms of its sublimity and wildness and in terms of the American mission of domesticating the wilderness.” [Grant. 2012:224-225]
  • “Obviously enough, this kind of realism is not peculiar to the western— it is a feature of most narrative genres in the American cinema. But a tension between a realism of presentation and a much greater degree of abstraction at other levels does seem characteristic of many westerns— the low mimetic realization “anchors” and gives credence to other, more abstract elements: romantic narrative structures, plots inherited from melodrama, the simple moral framework of sentimental fiction. In the last section of this essay I want to illustrate this kind of tension as one way in which the conflicting elements of the tradition contribute to the richness of the western. In some films, this tension produces a resonance we tend to associate with symbol. The simultaneous presence of the solid surface and a high degree of abstraction elsewhere causes an oscillation of response from one level to another, an awareness that the narrative flow is not the sole source of meaning, but that it is accompanied by another dimension, intimately tied to it but supplying another kind of meaning. Neither the realism of the surface nor the underlying abstraction dominates in such a context, but a balance is achieved between the two, a relationship analogous to that between denotation and connotation in Roland Barthes.” [Grant. 2012:246]


Bazerman, C., 2004. Intertextuality: How texts rely on other texts. What writing does and how it does it: An introduction to analyzing texts and textual practices, pp.83-96.

[Notes] Film Art by D. Bordwell & K. Thompson.


  • “Horror classics have been remade (Cat People, Dracula), and the genre conventions have been parodied (Young Frankenstein, Beetlejuice). While the Western declined in popularity during the 1970s, the horror film has sustained an audience for over 30 years. Its longevity has set scholars looking for cultural explanations. Many critics suggest that the 1970s subgenre of family horror films, such as The Exorcist and Poltergeist, reflect social concerns about the breakup of American families. Other suggest that the genre’s questioning of normality and traditional categories is in tune with both the post-Vietnam and the post-Cold War eras: Viewers may be uncertain of their fundamental beliefs about the world and their place in it. The continuing popularity of the teenage -oriented slasher series during the 1980s and 1990s might cater to young people’s fascination with and simultaneous anxieties about sexuality and violence – enhanced by sophisticated special-effects capable of creating gory and grotesque scenes. By the late 1990s, horror-film conventions had become so familiar that parodies also became popular: Men in Black (1997), Men in Black II (2002), and the “Scary Movie” and “Scream” series. Whatever the causes filmmakers working in the horror film have maintained that dynamic of conventions and innovation that is basic to every film genre.” [Bordwell & Thompson.2003:123]
  • “Audiences know the genres of their culture very well, and so do filmmakers. The intriguing problem comes in defining just what a genre is. What places a group of films in a genre?” [Bordwell & Thompson. 2003:109]
  • “The word genre is originally French and simply means kind or type. It is closely related to another word, genus, which is used in the biological sciences to classify large groups of similar plants or animals; a genus usually consists of several species. Scientists can usually place plants or animals within a single genus with confidence, since a living thing’s DNA will determine what category it belongs to. Defining film genres lacks that sort of scientific precision. Instead genres are convenient terms that develop in an informal way. Filmmakers, industry decision makers, critics, and viewers all contribute to the formation of a shared sense that certain films seem to resemble one another in significant ways. Genres also change over time, as filmmakers invent new twists on old formulas. Thus, defining the precise boundaries between genres can be tricky.” [Bordwell & Thompson. 2003:108]
  • “Most scholars now agree that no genre can be defined in a single hard-and-fast way. Some genres stand out by their subjects or themes. A gangster film centers on large-scale urban crime. A science-fiction film features a technology beyond the reach of contemporary science. A Western is usually about life on some frontier (not necessarily the West, as North to Alaska and Drums along the Mohawk suggest).” [Bordwell & Thompson. 2003:109]
  • “Quite early the central theme of the genre became the conflict between civilized order and the lawless frontier. From the East and the city come the settlers who want to raise families, the schoolteachers who aim to spread learning, and the bankers and government officials. In the vast natural spaces, in contrast, thrive those outside civilisation – not only the American Indians but also outlaws, trappers and traders, and greedy cattle barons. Iconography reinforces this basic duality. The covered wagon and the railroad are set against the horse and canoe; the schoolhouse and church contrast with the lonely campfire in the hills. As in most genres, costume is ichnographically significant, too. The settlers’ starched dressed and Sunday suits stand out against Indians tribal garb and the cowboys’ jeans and Stetsons.” [Bordwell & Thompson. 2003:119]


Bordwell, D. & Thompson, K. (2003) Film Art: An Introduction. McGraw-Hill Company: New York.

[Notes] Frankenstein by M. Shelley.


Description of Frankenstein’s Monster:

“How can I describe my emotions at this catastrophe, or how delineate the wretch whom with such infinite pains and care I had endeavoured to form? His limbs were in proportion, and I had selected his features as beautiful. Beautiful! Great God! His yellow skin scarcely covered the work of muscles and arteries beneath; his hair was of a lustrous black, and flowing; his teeth of a pearly whiteness; but these luxuriances only formed a more horrid contrast with his watery eyes, that seemed almost the same colour as the dun-white sockets in which they were set, his shrivelled complexion and straight black lips.” [Shelly. 1818:43]


Shelley, M. (1818) Frankenstein; or The Modern Prometheus. Canterbury Classics: San Diego.

[Notes] Roger Ebert 1987 review of Spaceballs.

  • “I enjoyed a lot of the movie, but I kept thinking I was at a revival. The strangest thing about “Spaceballs” is that it should have been made several years ago, before our appetite for “Star Wars” satires had been completely exhausted.

Brooks’s first features, “The Producers” (1968) and “The Twelve Chairs,” told original stories. Since then, he has specialized in movie satires; his targets include Frankenstein, Hitchcock, Westerns, silent movies and historical epics. I usually find a few very big laughs and a lot of smaller ones in his movies, but the earlier ones are stronger than the more recent films, and I keep wishing Brooks would satirize something current and tricky, like the John Hughes teenage films, instead of picking on old targets. With “Spaceballs,” he has made the kind of movie that didn’t really need a Mel Brooks. In bits and pieces, one way or another, this movie already has been made over the last 10 years by countless other satirists” [Ebert.1987]

[Notes] Watching the Simpsons by J. Gray.


  • “To some degree or other, all texts transcend their textual homes, also becoming part of common culture and of everyday life. Thus, television texts do not exist solely in their moments of transmission.” [Gray. 2006:119]

  • “Arguably, media and cultural studies’ first major (if only implicit) step towards a theory of intertextuality came with Stuart Hall’s (1980) encoding/decoding model and intervention, and subsequent work into decoding by what Alasuutari (1991) has dubbed the ‘first generation’ of reception analysts (see Ang 1985; Buckingham 1987; A. Gray 1987; Hobson 1987; J. Lewis 1986; Morley 1980, 1986; Radway 1987).” [Gray.2006:21]
  • “Where influence theory sees a limited, unidirectional network of texts, Bakhtinian intertextual theory sees a textual universe of criss-crossing wires, and focuses on ‘the life of texts’ (Bakhtin 1986:114). Texts are always talking to each other, this theory suggests, and any new text as utterance will find its meaning only by adding its voice to the already existent dialogue. Yet since the individual reader will come to understand a text only by ‘listening’ to this dialogue, and since, therefore, we can comprehend one text only by using others, Bakhtinian linguistics and textual dialogism suggest a profound fluidity of textual boundaries.” [Gray.2006:26]
  • “Intertextual theory provocatively asks us to what degree a text as entity can exist outside of itself as physical object, and live through other texts. Bennett and Woollacott (1987), for instance, observe that popular heroes or characters can become matrixing principles or ‘dormant signifiers’, awoken by, but preceding, the individual text. Parallel work on Batman in the collected essays in Pearson and Uricchio’s (1991) The Many Lives of the Batman and on Judge Dredd by Barker and Brooks (1998) points to a similar conclusion (see also T. Miller 1997). And popular heroes are not alone, for as John Fiske (1989b) finds of Madonna, and Barker and Brooks (1998) find of Sylvester Stallone, performers/stars also exist intertextually, as do whole stories through remakes (Chin and Gray 2001), and, as I will soon discuss, genres. Writing on Batman in the superhero’s 1989 filmic reincarnation, Bennett states that the ‘early Gothic Batman, the Cold War Batman of the 1950s and his 1960s parodic successor: these are all there, like so many sedimented layers of plot, narrative and characterization which the text works with – or against’ (Bennett 1991: ix emphasis added), but, of course, Bennett’s there and his sedimentary layers are not actually in the text as location. Instead, as Fiske (1989a:66) writes of intertexts, they are ‘ghost texts’, but these ghosts come from the reader, and from other texts the reader has encountered. Resilient in refusing death, any text that we read can potentially live on forever – ageless as Bond and Batman have proven to be – to ‘haunt’ future texts. Ultimately texts stay with us, alive in our memories.” [Gray.2006:26-27]


Gray, J. (2006) Watching with The Simpsons: Television, Parody, and Intertextuality. Taylor & Francis: New York.

[Notes] How Star Wars Conquered the Universe by C. Taylor.


  • “Like Star Wars itself, the parodies seemed to pretty much die out after the original trilogy ended in 1983. The one notable exception – Mel Brooks’s feature-length Spaceballs in 1987 – seemed outdated on arrival. ‘It should have been made several years ago, before out appetite for Star Wars satires had been exhausted,’ wrote Rodger Ebert. ‘This movie already has been made over the last 10 years by countless other satirists.’ (A handful of the jokes, such as the princess’s hair buns turning out to be ear warmers, arrived direct from Hardware Wars.)” [Taylor. 2014:135-136]

  • “But Star Wars was not made in a heavenly moment with the muses; it did not arrive on stone tablets. It was far more of a light, wispy thing. As tempting as it is to think of the entire franchise as some preordained feat of genius, it’s far more revealing to view it as Flash Gordon fan fiction meets fairy tale, made by a film nerd who, suddenly finding himself with a lot of time and money on his hands, was experimenting more than anything else.” [Taylor. 2014:128]


Taylor, C. (2014) How Star Wars Conquered the Universe. The Past, Present and Future of a Multibillion Dollar Franchise. Head of Zeus Ltd. London.