3 Short Essays: Intertextuality

[Note: This is 2 of 3 essays, submitted as part of a course in Hermeneutics with LST]

This (Intertexuality in relation to Literary Theory) originates from Julia Kristeva with her essays produced between 1966 and 67 titled “The bounded text” and “Word dialogue and novel”; the latter essay makes use of Mikhael Bakthtin’s work.  Intertextual reading in essence is a reader-oriented method of hermeneutics, where the interpreter has the final say on meaning.

Julia Kristeva was not only influenced by Bakhtin but Freud, Marx and Barthes (whom she studied under), Barthes being famous for declaring the death of the Author, and ultimately that of God with meaning then left to the reader to determine, “the refusal to assign a fixed meaning either to the world or to texts liberates an activity we may call countertheological, for to refuse to halt meaning is finally to refuse God”*.

Intertextuality asserts that a text is a permutation of texts in the space of a given text, several utterances, taken from other texts, intersect and neutralize one another. It is this neutralization that differentiates Kristeva from Bakthtin, though to both the consequences still remains the same – the reader becomes a writer and joins in the cacophony of voices. The writer says nothing original and cannot but simply parodies earlier writers who in turn their own culture and surroundings. This allows no one interpretation to dominate especially when it comes to Texts that are considered to be classic and can be subjected to oppressive readings. Thus, Intertexuality, lends itself well to Liberation and Feminist readings as found in Kristeva herself.

Yet, contrary to Bakhtin’s idea of Heteroglossia, we find that in the Pauline Epistles, Paul makes the languages of the Old Testament his own by successfully adapting them for his own intention; yet in this act of appropriation the languages of the Old Testament are not silenced…never contradictory as Bakhtin characterises some relationships between the languages of heteroglossia**.

* Kevin J. Vanhoozer, Is there a Meaning in this Text? The Bible, The Reader, and the Morality of Literary
Knowledge. Pg 30.
** Timothy Ward’s essay in “The Trustworthiness of God “– Perspectives on the Nature of Scripture. Pg 206.


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