Study Guide

Gérard Genette - The Intertextualists

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The Intertextualists

Although the group's name has a vaguely erotic connotation, this gathering remains strictly focused on the text (not texting). Rather like a book group, the Intertextualists get together and play "Name the Reference," "Networking 101," and "Code Breakers," in which they try to identify all of the structures and traditions a book draws upon from previous books. The premise of the group is that no book stands alone—each book is in constant conversation with other books.

Julia Kristeva

Jules was a natural for president; after all, she coined the term "intertextuality" and made it a trendy theoretical concept. She constantly reminded the group that books aren't all about what an author intended to say—they are full of influences and references to other texts—which together make up a massive signifying system.

Ferdinand de Saussure

Always good to have a linguist on board when it comes to talking about books talking to other books, right? Saussure was one of the first to roll up his sleeves and discuss how language makes sense by means of relations—i.e., between words, meanings, or texts.

Mikhail Bakhtin
Resident Comedian

Sure, Mikhail was serious about the relationship between authors and their books—he came up with a little thing called dialogism (as in dialogue), which is a lot like intertextuality—but he was also into grotesquerie and so always brought a little bit of a Jack Ass tone to discussions of the social forces that influence language.

The Bricoleurs

Sure, it sounds like it might be Jack White's latest collaboration, but the Bricoleurs were actually a group of Structuralists who formed a niche study group to consider the idea of craft work—which is where the term bricolage comes from.

As far as texts were concerned, the Bricoleurs were up for studying texts from all angles. Basically the opposite of close readers, the Bricoleurs were interested in texts in the context of social interactions, culture, and human meaning-making—none of which is neat, binary, and all wrapped up in a bow, the way a lot of critics wanted their work to be. The Bricoleurs lived and died by the motto: "Theory can be a hot mess. Surrender to it."

Claude Lévi-Strauss
Tribal Leader

Calling him Tribal Leader was sort of an inside joke, seeing as he spent so much time out in the Brazilian jungle with natives and was always keen on the idea of having a pet "people" of his own. So the Bricoleurs just let him have this one. In all fairness, he brought a lot of knowledge to the group with his observations on the fluid construction of meaning in non-Western cultures.

Jacques Derrida

Jacques can add cred to any group, and he had a comment—and usually a full published monograph—on any subject. So it was always a shrewd move to include him in the intellectual Wolf Pack. Jacques put a spin on some of Lévi-Strauss's ideas by saying that tribes in the Amazon aren't the only Bricoleurs—in fact, anyone who borrows anything to formulate a discourse could be called a Bricoleur. Other members felt he was a little liberal with his definitions, but who were they to question Derrida? You're not allowed to question Derrida.

Gilles Deleuze and Félix Guattari
Wonder Twins

This dynamic French duo gave the whole idea a dark psychological spin, making Bricolage more than just an unbiased mixture of human production. They called it transgressive and even "schizophrenic" (source).

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