The Birth of Intertextuality : The Riddle of Creativity book cover
1st Edition

The Birth of Intertextuality
The Riddle of Creativity

ISBN 9781032086323
Published June 30, 2021 by Routledge
402 Pages 3 B/W Illustrations

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Book Description

Why was the term ‘intertextuality’ coined? Why did its first theorists feel the need to replace or complement those terms – of quotation, allusion, echo, reference, influence, imitation, parody, pastiche, among others – which had previously seemed adequate and sufficient to the description of literary relations? Why, especially in view of the fact that it is still met with resistance, did the new concept achieve such popularity so fast? Why has it retained its currency in spite of its inherent paradoxes? Since 1966, when Kristeva defined every text as a ‘mosaic of quotations’, ‘intertextuality’ has become an all-pervasive catchword in literature and other humanities departments; yet the notion, as commonly used, remains nebulous to the point of meaninglessness. This book seeks to shed light on this thought-provoking but treacherously polyvalent concept by tracing the theory’s core ideas and emblematic images to paradigm shifts in the fields of science, philosophy, psychoanalysis, and linguistics, focusing on the shaping roles of Darwin, Nietzsche, Freud, Saussure, and Bakhtin. In so doing, it elucidates the meaning of one of the most frequently used terms in contemporary criticism, thereby providing a much-needed foundation for clearer discussions of literary relations across the discipline and beyond.

Table of Contents


1. Darwin’s ‘universal acid’

2. Nietzsche: murdering authority, liberating interpretation

3. Freud and the riddle of creativity

4. Literary criticism and the dream of a ‘science of culture’: Saussurean linguistics, Russian Formalism, structuralism

5. Bakhtin: ‘the word in language is half someone else’s’

6. Kristeva and the birth of intertextuality


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Scarlett Baron is Associate Professor of Twentieth- and Twenty-First-Century Literature at University College London.


"The Birth of Intertextuality is such a welcome intervention in this unhappy context because it considers not only the genealogy of intertextuality, but how the wooliness of its deployment in literary studies and related disciplines can in part be attributed to the overdetermination attendant on the invention of the term. […] Baron’s patient demonstration of the validity of this valuable insight represents crucial intellectual historical work, illuminating this tricky enclave of twentieth-century theory." Niall Gildea, The Review of English Studies

"Scarlett Baron’s second book is characteristically fluent and adept in its handling of a wide range of material and subjects. […] It is indeed a welcome addition to the library of theory-enthusiasts for its lucid and incisive unpacking of what is dense and far-reaching material. […] It is such dexterity in the synthesis of myriad materials and ideas that makes this book so successful." Emily Bell, James Joyce Broadsheet

"The scope and ambition […] is impressive. There is a great deal here to admire. […] In dense, closely argued chapters, Baron shows the way that these ideas came together in the revolutionary politics of late 1960s Paris, where Kristeva arrived as a graduate student to work with Roland Barthes. […] Baron writes with great clarity on the long intellectual history that leads up to 1967. […] The relentless exposure of the contradictions in Kristeva’s prose that Baron offers is impressive." Bart Van Es, The Times Literary Supplement