Intertextuality and Dialogue (Links)

Quoting/ listening/ speaking
The Conversation - Drifting index; sound pov

Types of Links

Summary of Articles

Culler, Jonathan, The Pursuit of Signs - "Presupposition and Intertextuality"
Kristeva, Julia, Desire in Language - "Word, Dialogue and the Novel"


Types of Links (External vs. Internal)

  • Definition
  • Source - proof of truth
  • Elaboration
  • Aside (foot note) - comment
  • Branching narrative
  • Linear continuity
  • Association
  • Illustration
  • Analogy / Parallelism
  • Translation
  • Before/After (flash back or flash forward)


Summary of Articles:


intertextuality=discursive space that makes text intelligible



provides a simultaneous other perspective

plural texts

deja lu - anonymous and yet read

the paradox: dependent on code it generates

lost distinction - text/ context

ubiquitous - no place to stand on

no coordinates



reader empowered

reader decentered, lost






inclusive (in principle)

diachrony transformed into synchrony

ambivalence; non exclusive opposition


single angle; censorship

single text

clear source

code / content; frame/ inside

text/ context; author/ reader

vanishing point

fixed coordinates



author's control

reader positioned

reader vs. writer



single voice



diachrony/ linearity

prohibition; determination


Culler, Jonathan, The Pursuit of Signs - "Presupposition and Intertextuality"

Culler For a discussion to be significant it must stand in a relationship to a body of discourse, an enterprise, which is already in place, other projects and thoughts which it implicitly or explicitly takes up, prolongs, cites, refutes, transforms -- the presuppositions of a piece of writing. (100-101)

One's presuppositions are best revealed by another, or by an effort of dedoublement: of thinking from the point of view of the other.

Roland Barthes speaks of intertextual codes as a 'mirage of citations,' likely to prove evasive and insubstantial as soon as one attempts to grasp them. The codes are nothing other than the 'deja lu,' and readers, in whom these codes dwell, may be thought of as the representatives of a general intertextuality. 'I,' writes Barthes, 'is not an innocent subject that is anterior to texts.... The I that approaches the text is itself already a plurality of other texts, of infinite or, more precisely, lost codes (whose origins are lost). (102)

The paradoxical nature of discursive systems: Discursive conventions can only originate in discourse [But discourse depends on discursive conventions].

'Intertextuality' thus has a double focus. On the one hand, it calls our attention to the importance of prior texts, insisting that the autonomy of texts is a misleading notion and that a work has the meaning it does only because certain things have previously been written. Yet in so far as it focuses on intelligibility, on meaning, 'intertextuality' leads us to consider prior texts as contributions to a code which makes possible the various effects of signification. Intertextuality thus becomes less a name for a work's relation to particular prior texts than a designation of its participation in the discursive space of a culture: the relationship between a text and the various languages or signifying practices of a culture and its relation to those texts which articulate for it the possibilities of that culture.

The study of intertextuality is thus not the investigation of sources and influences as traditionally conceived; it casts its net wider to include anonymous discursive practices, codes whose origins are lost, that make possible the signifying practices of later texts. Barthes warns that from the perspective of intertextuality 'the quotations of which a text is made are anonymous, untraceable, and nevertheless already read'; they function‹this is the crucial thing‹as 'already read.'(103)

Intertextuality is the general discursive space that makes a text intelligible. (106)

For example:

An opening sentence such as "Once upon a time there lived a king who had a daughter" is extremely rich in literary and pragmatic presuppositions. It relates the story to a series of other stories, identifies it with the conventions of a genre, asks us to take certain attitudes towards it (guaranteeing, or at least strongly implying, that the story will have a point to it, a moral which will govern the organization of detail and incident). The sentence is a powerful intertextual operator. (115)

Bloom: "poems are not things but only words that refer to other words, and those words refer to still other words, and so on into the densely overpopulated world of literary language. Any poem is an inter-poem, and any reading of a poem is an inter-reading. [...] You cannot write or teach or think or even read without imitation, and what you imitate is what another person has done, that person's writing or teaching or thinking or reading. Your relation to what informs that person is tradition. (107-108)

What makes possible reading and writing is not a single anterior action which serves as origin and moment of plenitude but an open series of acts, both identifiable and lost, which work together to constitute something like a language: discursive possibilities, systems of convention, clichés and descriptive systems. (110)



Kristeva, Julia, Desire in Language - "Word, Dialogue and the Novel"

Bakhtin was one of the first to replace the static hewing out of texts with a model where literary structure does not simply exist but is generated in relation to another structure.(64)

What allows a dynamic dimension to structuralism is his conception of the "literary word" as an intersection of textual surfaces rather than a point (a fixed meaning), as a dialogue among several writings: that of the writer, the addressee (or the character), and the contemporary or earlier cultural context.

By introducing the status of the word as a minimal structural unit, Bakhtin situates the text within history and society, which are then seen as texts read by the writer, and into which he inserts himself by rewriting them.

Diachrony is transformed into synchrony, and in light of this transformation, linear history appears as abstraction. The only way a writer can participate in history is by transgressing this abstraction ,through a process of reading-writing.

History and morality are written and read within the infrastructure of texts.

Defining the specific status of the word as signifier for different modes of (literary) interaction within different genres or texts puts poetic analysis at the sensitive center of contemporary "human" sciences‹at the intersection of language (the true practice of thought) with space (the volume within which signification, through a joining of differences, articulates itself).

Confronted with this spatial conception of language's poetic operation, we must first define the three dimensions of textual space where various semic sets and poetic sequences function.(65)

These three dimensions or coordinates of dialogue are writing subject, addressee, and exterior texts. The word's status is thus defined horizontally (the word in the text belongs to both writing subject and addressee) as well as vertically (the word in the text is oriented toward an anterior or synchronic literary corpus.

Any text is constructed as a mosaic of quotations; 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. (66)

Dialogism and Ambivalence
The word is spatialized; through the very notion of status, it functions in three dimensions (subject-addressee-context) as a set of dialogical, semic elements or as a set of ambivalent  elements.

Dialogism is inherent in language itself:

  • Writer / Character
  • Langue / Parole
  • Syntagmatic / Systematic
  • Combination / Selection
  • Subjectivity / Communication (68)

The term "ambivalence" implies the insertion of history (society) into a text and of this text into history.

Bakhtin considers writing as a reading of the anterior literary corpus and the text as an absorption of and a reply to another text:
Dialogue and ambivalence are borne out as the only approach that permits the writer to enter history by espousing an ambivalent ethics: negation as affirmation.

This implies that the minimal unit of poetic language is at least double, in terms of one and other. (69)

The Epic and The Carnival; Monologism and Dialogism
We have on the one hand monological discourse, including, first, the representative mode of description and narration (the epic); secondly, historical discourse; and thirdly, scientific discourse. In all three, the subject both assumes and submits to the rule of I (God). The dialogue inherent in all discourse is smothered by a prohibition, a censorship. Monological discourse corresponds to Jakobson's systematic axis of language.

Epic discourse is a prohibition, a monologism, a subordination of the code to 1, to God. Hence, the epic is religious and theological; all "realist" narrative obeying 0-1 logic is dogmatic. The realist novel, which Bakhtin calls monological (e.g.Tolstoy), tends to evolve within this space. Realist description, definition of "personality," "character" creation, and "subject" development‹all are descriptive narrative elements belonging to the 0-1 interval and are thus monological. (71)

On the other hand, dialogical discourse includes carnivalesque and Menippean discourses as well as the polyphonic novel. In its structures, writing reads another writing, reads itself and constructs itself through a process of destructive genesis.(77)

The only discourse integrally to achieve the 0-2 poetic logic is that of the carnival. By adopting a dream logic, it transgresses rules of linguistic code and social morality as well. This "transgression" of linguistic, logical, and social codes within the carnivalesque only exists and succeeds because it accepts another law: that of Dialogism.

Dialogism is not "freedom to say everything,". Rather, it implies a categorical tearing from the norm and a relationship of nonexclusive opposites. (71)

The novel incorporating carnivalesque structure is called polyphonic.

Bakhtin's term dialogism thus implies the double, language, and another logic: the logic of distance and relationship between the different units of a sentence or narrative structure, indicating a becoming‹in opposition to the level of continuity and substance, both of which obey the logic of being and are thus monological.

Secondly, it is a logic of analogy and nonexclusive opposition, opposed to monological levels of causality and identifying determination.

The novel's ambivalent space thus can be seen as regulated by two formative principles: monological (each following sequence is determined by the preceding one), and dialogical.(72)

previous course plan