Allow me to set the scene.
A young couple is on a road-trip through New England. It’s just coming on to dusk as they approach a small town in rural Maine. In need of gas and food, they turn on to the main road. Their car engine splutters and dies. It’s only then that they notice the street is empty; not a single person is outside.
As they climb out of their car, they hear a door slam, and then the sound of fading laughter.
The couple look at each other, and one says, “This place feels like a Stephen King novel.”
What do you think is going to happen next? More importantly, what kind of feeling does that last sentence give you about the story to come.
That, my friends, is intertextuality.
Intertextuality is a term that was first used in 1966 by literary critic Julia Kristeva to describe the literary device wherein one text refers to another, either subtly or overtly. It refers to one book referencing another — either another book, a movie, a fairy tale, or even a well-known social “text”, like Kanye’s “I’mma let you finish” moment.
We, as humans, have been telling each other stories for thousands of years, each one carefully constructed over the bones of past stories. As they say, no story is an island. We approach every story we consume — whether it be a book, movie, TV show, computer game, comic book, or whatever else — with a knowledge of other stories. Often, it’s that knowledge, that recognition of how stories go, that makes reading so enjoyable.
No, really, intertextu-what-ity?
Generally, you know intertextuality when you see it. In fact, not only do you know it, it gives you a frisson of excitement; a feeling that you’re part of the “in group” that gets the inside joke.
There are so many examples of intertextuality in modern pop culture, it’s hard to know where to start. Watch any episode of The Simpsons and you’ll be sure to find one. For example: [Read more…]