Text and Intertextuality Essay

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Texts are vehicles of communication. While traditionally reserved for written and other verbal messages, the term refers to any meaningful entity, including images, everyday interaction, and cultural artifacts. Deriving from classical Latin ‘texo’ (to weave, to construct), texts emphasize the complex process in which ideas are articulated and communicated. Texts lend themselves to content and discourse analysis, feeding into qualitative 620 text and intertextuality approaches to the study of media reception, culture, and society.

The inclusive notion of texts has been elaborated with reference to intertextuality. The seminal contribution was made by the Russian literary scholar Mikhail Bakhtin in the early twentieth century (Bakhtin 1981). Bakhtin’s basic concept – dialogism – was translated by Kristeva (1984) as intertextuality. Fiske (1987) distinguished two dimensions of intertextuality. ‘Horizontal intertextuality’ covers the transfer of meanings over historical time, as preserved in the metaphors, characters, and styles of traditional arts as well as popular media. ‘Vertical intertextuality’ operates during a delimited time period but extends across media and social contexts.

To specify this synchronic perspective, Fiske identified three categories of texts. Primary texts are carriers of significant insight in their own right. In the horizontal perspective, the primary texts are the center of attention. If the primary text is a new feature movie, the secondary texts consist of studio publicity, reviews, and criticism. And the tertiary texts are produced by audiences before, during, and after attending the movie.

In combination, the two axes of intertextuality amount to a model of how meaning is produced and circulated in society. The rise of digital media and networked communication has given the concept of intertextuality renewed importance (Bolter 1991). Hyperlinks may be understood as operationalized forms of intertextuality.


  1. Bakhtin, M. M. (1981). The dialogic imagination. Austin, TX: University of Texas Press.
  2. Bolter, J. D. (1991). Writing space: The computer, hypertext, and the history of writing. Hillsdale, NJ: Lawrence Erlbaum.
  3. Fiske, J. (1987). Television culture. London: Methuen.
  4. Kristeva, J. (1984). Revolution in Poetic Language. New York: Columbia University Press.

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