Publication details [#54201]

Publication type
Article in book
Publication language
Place, Publisher
John Benjamins


Intertextuality has been one of the most popular and influential concepts in language, literary and discourse-oriented research of recent decades. The term was coined in the 1960s by Julia Kristeva, who assigned it a pivotal role in the formulation of a semiological project in which ‘text’ becomes the primary object of literary enquiry. The introduction of the term ‘intertextuality’ marked one of the key moments in the post-structuralist arrival through its challenge of text-immanism and, with it, the irrevocable politicization of literary production and critical reception. Concepts with a wide appeal often fall flat when generalized and made to serve elsewhere. This was also the case with early text linguistic uses of ‘intertextuality’ in the 1980s. De Beaugrande & Dressler (1981) see intertextuality as one of the seven constitutive features of textuality which can be used to the define a text as a communicative occurrence. The other ‘standards of textuality’ are: cohesion, coherence, intentionality, acceptability, informativity and situationality. If Kristeva is to be accredited for having coined a term and developed a concept which stresses the accumulative, partly self-disguising and transformative nature of discourse throughout history, and, by doing so, situates the literary irreplacibly among the more mundane discourses that populate our lifeworlds, then she is also to be acclaimed for guiding us to the discovery of the writings of Mikhail Bakhtin and his circle. With the growing popularity of the term and concept of ‘intertextuality’ came also the growing importance of a set of other concepts which accompanied Bakhtin’s belated admittance to the halls of social scientific fame: ‘dialogism’, ‘heteroglossia’, ‘double-voicedness’, ‘polyphony’, ‘the carnivalesque’. With critical discourse analysis, language research ‘restored’ the link with Kristeva, but much more than that, it embraced the writings of Bakhtin (and Vološinov) — with considerable debt to mediation by M. Foucault. The detection of dialogisms at different levels of enquiry also helps us understand dualities in the reception of Vološinov (1929, trnsl. 1986). Vološinov (like Bakhtin) takes the dialogic to the most general level of positing an ontology of language: for him, the utterance is always a reception of and a response to another, previous utterance, and this happens along fundamentally social horizons of reception. At the basis of this is fundamentally a pragmatic, utterance-oriented and context-sensitive theory of language. Aiming at a ‘fusion’ between the two senses of dialogism — utterance-within-utterance and turn-following-turn, one can detect a complementarity of perspectives which can be expressed in a layered definition of sequential implicativeness. The paper then carries on in section 5 with synoptic and participatory views of human activity and Bakhtin, Bourdieu and sociolinguistic legitimacy (and the body) and in section 6 with natural histories of discourse: recontextualization/encontextualization and textual ideologies.