“Take her from where she stands, straight to the Island”

Sophocles' "Antigone" in Athol Fugard's "The Island"

Term Paper (Advanced seminar), 2011

27 Pages, Grade: 3,0


Table of content

1. Introduction

2. Concepts of intertextuality
2.1 Bakhtin's dialogism
2.2 Kristeva's intertextuality
2.3 Further concepts
2.4 Pfister and Broich's theory of intertextuality
2.4.1 Criteria of intertextuality
2.4.2 Markers of intertextuality

3. Sophocles' Antigone

4. Antigone in The Island

5. Conclusion

Works cited

1. Introduction

The concept of intertextuality has been in use since the 1960s. Since then the concept has undergone some changes, in name as well as in content and definition. The first one, who mentioned an intertextuality-like concept was Mikhail Bakhtin. His theory was called dialogism and it was quite similar to the theory of intertextuality as it is defined today. Later on Julia Kristeva built her own theory with reference to Bakhtin. Her concept was more or less a reshaped and renamed form of Bakhtin's one. It was Kristeva who coined the term intertextuality for her concept in the late 1960s. Since then the forerunners of the theory of intertextuality have been redefined time and again. As to this day many different forms of the theory are in use which differ primarily in the extent to which they consider something written – or spoken for that matter – as a text that influences other texts.

In order to develop a concept which should underlie this term paper the author will first of all give a short overview of both Bakhtin's and Kristeva's concepts of dialogism and intertextuality. Furthermore, a few of the various concepts that are in use will be named and defined, including Gerald Genette's theory of transculturality, in order to give the reader with a concise overview of the current state of research and to enable them to draw their own conclusions concerning intertextuality. The author will then present Manfred Pfister and Ulrich Broich's theory of intertextuality, which will be the theory that is mostly used for this term paper.

In order to provide the reader with some knowledge of Sophocles' Antigone the tragedy will curtly be summarised along with few historical and commentary remarks, thus enabling the reader to draw parallels between Antigone and The Island.

This will be followed by a close chronological analysis of occurring intertextual hints, starting with the first mentioning of the Sophoclean play and ending with a close comparison of the prison concert's performance with Antigone. Moreover, the author will try to propose reasons for the choice of Antigone as a pretext while identifying intertextuality.

To conclude, the primary insights will be summarised and combined with Pfister and Broich's categories of intertextuality.

2. Concepts of intertextuality

2.1 Bakhtin's dialogism

Mikhail Mikhailovich Bakhtin was a Russian literary critic and semiotician. He developed his concept of dialogism in the 1920s, but most of his works on this subject have not been published till the early 1960s. At the centre of his work stands the distinction between dialogism and monologism, which means the opposition between an open debate of divergent positions (“dialog“) and a “monological“ affirmation of tradition and authority.[1] Bakhtin saw this differentiation both in society and in literature and language. The society part will be disregarded in this term paper, because the part of language and literature is of much more concern for the development of the theory of intertextuality.

In the field of language Bakhtin states that there are two opposite tendencies of on the one hand “monologically unified language and speech”[2] and “variety of language and speech”[3] (which means dialect, sociolect and idiolect) on the other (dialogism). Concerning language, Bakthin says that an object has always already been spoken of, described, debated and evaluated. It has been enlightened by other words describing the same object. Hence, a word that delineates an object inevitably steps into dialogical interactions with previously uttered words about the given object.

Considering the novel (i.e. the literary branch), there are the same patterns active. In addition to the dialogical interactions between different words that describe an object, the word in a novel is, at all times, a two-voiced word. These two voices mark two intentions: the intention of the speaking person (i.e. a character of the novel) and the author's one, and they are referring to each other in a dialogical manner. This reference of a voice in a text to another voice in the same text is what Bakhtin is mostly concentrating on. Therefore, it is important to stress that his concept rather deals with intratextuality than intertextuality. He emphasises the dialog that takes place between voices within a text and references to other texts are only secondary to him. Moreover, in his opinion references to voices outside the given text are, if anything, references to a common discourse of the time and not to another literary text. A generic reference (i.e. references to a certain genre) of texts is more important to him than a reference to a certain pretext.

2.2 Kristeva's intertextuality

Julia Kristeva, a Bulgarian-French philosopher, literary critic and sociologist, was the first one who mentioned the term intertextuality. Her concept is, more or less, a re-accentuation of Bakhtin's theory of dialogism, in terms of restriction as well as extension.

Her most important hypothesis is embodied in her famous quotation: “tout texte se construit comme mosaïque de citations, tout texte est absorption et transformation d'un autre texte.”[4] According to her, a text is a mosaic of quotations, every word has always already been written and can only be newly arranged but not invented. This is reminiscent of Bakhtin's claim of quotational foreign words in a text.

But there is a striking difference between Kristeva and Bakhtin concerning the field they are looking at/ are dealing with. That is to say, Bakhtin distinguishes between monological and polylogical texts and his concern are the second ones. Moreover, he sets apart history and society from words, speech and language, whereas Kristeva considers everything ever written, every cultural system and structure as well as history and society as a kind of text. Therefore, every text, Kristeva claims, is intertextual. This means that intertextuality is no longer an eminent attribute. Thus, a text is productive in itself and the author is no longer responsible for any kind of productivity in the text. He is a mere “area of projection of the intertextual act”[5]. Along with this comes a vanishing individuality of the work, which is then only just part of a universal, collective text. Kristeva, in this association, speaks of a “universe of texts”[6], where there is a constant reference to other texts and every text is part of a “texte gènèral”[7], that is written in connection with and as well as reality and history. It becomes quite clear that Kristeva presents a core belief of potstructualists and deconstructionist here.

2.3 Further concepts

In the aftermath of Bakhtin and Kristeva the concept of intertextuality has been reshaped time and again. Nowadays, there are many different definitions in use, mostly diverging in the extent of their notion of text. Some literary critics consider the whole entity of texts as pretexts as well as every code that forms the basis of those texts (reminiscent of Kristeva), whereas other critics constrain their attention to literary texts. And finally, there are those critics who consider intertextuality as a conscious act that shows a palpable reference to individual pretexts, clusters of pretexts or even underlying codes to certain texts.

Gèrard Genette, one of the foremost French literary theorists, formed his own theory of intertextuality, which he calls “transtextuality”, and developed five categories to classify modes of intertextuality in his famous work Palimpsestes: La littérature au second degré[8]: 1. intertextuality as co-presence of two or more texts, 2. paratextuality, 3. metatextuality, 4. hypertextuality and 5. architextuality. He focuses on references between literary texts that are specific and concise and, in addition, his theory is not restrained to individual pretexts but he also takes word processing systems like genres into consideration. Examples of his first category would be quotation, allusion and plagiarism. It is important to notice that those pretexts are perceptible and palpable in the given text. Paratextuality refers to references between the text and its title, foreword, afterword, motto and the like, whereas metatextuality means a commented, often critical cross reference to a pretext in a text. What Gènette calls hypertextuality takes place if a text uses another text as its master copy. This is the case with genres like imitation, adaptation, sequel, parody and so forth. Generic references of a text form the so-called architextuality in Gènette's model.

Some critics differentiate between intertextuality and references to systems, for example genres. However, this approach implies some difficulties due to its dichotomy of the two categories, because it separates what intuitively belongs together as it is the case with genres like the mock-heroic, for instance. A mock-heroic shows an obvious satirical reference to a genre, the heroic literature, but additionally, there are often references to certain realizations of the genre. Following the dichotomy of this theory the mock-heroic would be either looked at as an intertextual text with some individual texts as its pretext or as a text that shows generic references. Both concepts would not be combined which leads to an insufficient analysis and interpretation of the mock-heroic in one of both directions.

Furthermore, theories of intertextuality can be distinguished due to the frequency of intertextual links, that is to say, some critics only take into account texts that show a structural homology between text and pretext whereas others deal with texts which only feature selective references to other texts as well.

Moreover, intertextual texts can be divided according to their semantic relations to other texts. Thus, the highest intertextuality becomes evident where there is a conflict between text and pretext., namely a “semantic-ideological difference or divergence”[9] often called “intertextual incompatibilities”[10]. This may be realized as syntactical aberrations or irregularities of grammatical rules. By clearly distinguishing the pretext from his text by means of intertextual incompatibilities the author obviously hints at intertextuality.

In the course of the development of a theory of intertextuality the question of the author's role and that of the recipient has also been raised. For instance, post-structural approaches lay their main focus on the reader as do other several critics like Roland Barthes , who claims that a text is “a tissue of quotations drawn from innumerable centers [sic!] of cultures”.[11] Concerning the importance of the recipient he goes on:

there is one place where this multiplicity is focused and that place is the reader, not, as was hitherto said, the author. The reader is the space on which all the quotations that make up a writing are inscribed. […] A text's unity lies not in its origin but in its destination.[12]

It becomes clear that the reader is no longer considered to be an individual but a place where intertextual hints are resolved. The same is true for the author who is a reader of the “texte gènèral” and of his own text. Therefore, intertextuality is always inevitable and is not questionend, whether it is an intended or unintended act.

Structural or hermeneutical approaches on the other hand differentiate between random and often unconscious reminiscences of the author which bear no pointed remarks or meaning and of actual intertextual allusions which are intended by the author and have to be recognized and dismantled by the reader. Hence, post-structuralists believe in a universal intertext, in retrospect of Kristeva, whereas structuralists and hermeneutics deal with intended, even marked references.[13]

2.4 Pfister and Broich's theory of intertextuality

2.4.1 Criteria of intertextuality

Pfister's and Broich's aim is the connection and intermediation of both afore mentioned models of intertextuality, namely the post-structural and the structural/hermeneutical ones. They try to use the comprehensive model of a universal intertext and to gradate according to the degree of intensity of the intertextual references. In order to be able to do this they developed a set of criteria to measure the intensity of intertextuality of texts, which are divided into qualitative and quantitative criteria.

Their first qualitative criterion is referentiality. This criterion indicates that the more the pretext is discussed, commented or talked about within a text, the more intertextual this text is. To exemplify, they differentiate between a seamlessly integrated and an accentuated quotation with reference to the quotation and its original context. An unmarked quotation is difficult to recognize for the reader of a text, it has to be read very carefully in order to identify any hidden quotation. In the course of an accentuation of quotations within a text Pfister and Broich introduce the term metatextuality and define it as the commenting and interpreting of a pretext and thereby tying or distancing it to the given text.

Communicativity (Kommunikativität) is what Pfister and Broich call their second criterion of intertextuality. By that they mean the degree of consciousness of the intertextual reference in the author as well as in the recipient. Moreover, the intention and explicitness of the marking in the text is subject to measurement in the course of this criterion. Consequently, if the author consciously uses a pretext, expects the reader to recognize this reference and marks the intertextuality, the highest intensity is at hand. Examples for pretexts suitable for this category are canonised world-renowned literature or current, widely received works. Correspondingly, references to the Bible will be easier to be identified by many readers of different educational backgrounds then a reference to works that are only known by a few literary specialists.


[1] cf. Pfister, Manfred. “Konzepte der Intertextualität”. Intertextualität: Formen, Funktionen, anglistische

Fallstudien. Pfister, Manfred and Ulrich Broich (ed.).Tübingen: Max Niemeyer Verlag, 1985. p. 2.

[2] Ibid. ( my translation).

[3] Ibid. (my translation).

[4] Quoted after Pfister. “Konzepte“. p. 6.

[5] Ibid. p. 8. (my translation).

[6] Ibid. p. 9. (my translation).

[7] Quoted after Pfister. “Konzepte”. p. 9.

[8] Quoted after Pfister. „Konzepte“. p. 16.

[9] Ibid. p. 19. (my translation).

[10] Ibid.

[11] Quoted after Pfister. “Konzepte”. p. 20.

[12] Quoted after Pfister.“Konzepte” p. 20.

[13] cf. Pfister. “Konzepte”. p. 1-24.

Excerpt out of 27 pages


“Take her from where she stands, straight to the Island”
Sophocles' "Antigone" in Athol Fugard's "The Island"
University of Bonn  (Institut für Anglsitik, Amerikanistik und Keltologie)
Hauptseminar "Literature from South Africa"
Catalog Number
ISBN (eBook)
File size
557 KB
Athol Fugard, postcolonial, postkolonial, Sophokles, Sophocles, Antigone, Intertextualität, Bakhtin, Kristeva, Township play, The Island, intertextuality
Quote paper
Kim Keller (Author), 2011, “Take her from where she stands, straight to the Island”, Munich, GRIN Verlag, https://www.grin.com/document/187039


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