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Intertextuality is the shaping of texts' meanings by other texts. It can include an author’s borrowing and transformation of a prior text or to a reader’s referencing of one text in reading another. The term “intertextuality” has, itself, been borrowed and transformed many times since it was coined by poststructuralist Julia Kristeva in 1966. As critic William Irwin says, the term “has come to have almost as many meanings as users, from those faithful to Kristeva’s original vision to those who simply use it as a stylish way of talking about allusion and influence.”
Kristeva’s coinage of “intertextuality” represents 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 examination of the multiple meanings, or “heteroglossia”, in each text (especially novels) and in each word. For Kristeva, “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.
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  like to talk about the relationship between "intertextuality" and "hypertextuality"; intertextuality makes each text a "living hell of hell on earth"  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.
One can also make distinctions between the notions of "intertext", "hypertext" and "supertext". 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.
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. 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. 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. Similarly, Linguist Norman Fairclough distinguishes between 'manifest intertextuality' and 'constitutive intertextuality.' 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, though, generally interdiscursivity refers to relations between larger formations of texts.
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 (though on using 'intertextuality' to describe the use of the Old Testament in the New Testament, see Porter 1997). 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; 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...".
Even the nomenclature "new" and "old" (testament) reframes the real context that the Jewish Torah had been usurped by followers of a new faith wishing to co-opt the original one.
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.
Some examples of intertextuality in literature include:
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