Not the End of the World and Genesis 6-9: Expansions, Differences and New Perspectives

Explanation or Challenge of the ‘Original’!?

Term Paper, 2012

13 Pages, Grade: 1,3




I. Explanation of the Phenomenon ‘Intertextuality’

II. Analysis of Not the End of the World and Genesis 6-9 with Regard to Intertextual Links, Expansions and Differences

III. Interpretation: Not the End of the World as an Explanation of the ‘Original’!?




“Everyone knows the story of the Ark. The flood rising, the animals entering two by two. Noah. But what about the women and children? Did they all accept Noah’s orders to ignore their friends and neighbours struggling in the water?”[1]

Many films and novels deal with biblical subjects. One of them is Not the End of the World [2], a novel written by Geraldine McCaughrean, which opens up new perspectives on the story of Noah’s ark in Genesis 6-9. Both texts can be compared because of their similar plot. NtEotW is based on and can only be completely understood with the help of Genesis 6-9. Although the plot of the fictionalised text contains gaps which the reader has to fill with the help of his knowledge of the biblical ‘original’, it is also more comprehensive than Genesis 6-9 in some points. Based on the thesis that NtEotW expands and explains the biblical ‘original’, these two texts will be analysed in this term paper in order to show where the expansions in NtEotW explain Genesis 6-9, and how the hypertext perhaps also challenges the hypotext. Therefore, terms like hypotext, hypertext and intertextuality will be explained at first. This first part of the paper serves as a theoretical basis for the second part, in which the texts will be analysed with regard to intertextual connections, expansions and differences. The following interpretation shows how the expansions in NtEotW explain Genesis 6-9 and how they rather challenge the biblical ‘original’. The conclusion will summarise the results of this paper and provide an outlook for further studies of the subject.

I. Explanation of the Phenomenon ‘Intertextuality’

‘Intertextuality’ is difficult to define[3]. Modern theorists agree that texts lack any independent meaning and are therefore “intertextual”[4]. When reading a text, the reader enters into a “network of textual relations” (1) and when he interprets a text, he has to trace such relations (1). Consequently, Graham Allen defines reading as a “process of moving between texts” (1), and he states that meaning “exists between a text and all the other texts to which it refers and relates” (1). Thus, “the text becomes the intertext” (1). Intertextuality is an important term (2), and therefore the theories of Julia Kristeva, Roland Barthes and Gérard Genette who explain their notions of intertextuality will be briefly examined in the following part.

In the late 1960s intertextual theory was coined by Julia Kristeva who combined Bakhtin’s ideas “on the social context of language with Saussure’s positing of the systematic features of language”[5]. Kristeva defines intertextuality as “a mosaic of quotations”[6], and states that “any text is the absorption and transformation of another”[7]. Roland Barthes seems to agree with her concept of intertextuality when he defines a text as “a fabric of quotations, resulting from a thousand sources of culture”[8]. Allen adds that Barthes mainly uses intertextual theory to “challenge long-held assumptions concerning the role of the author in the production of meaning”[9]. The background to Barthes’s concept of intertextuality can be found in his essay The Death of the Author, in which he states that to give a text an author is “to impose a brake on it”[10]. Furthermore, Barthes is convinced that a text’s meaning cannot be found in the text, but is constructed by the reader in relation to his knowledge of all the texts evoked in the reading process[11]. Barthes also uses the term ‘counter-text’ to describe a text which refers to another one in order to question and challenge it. Michael Meyer terms such texts “re-writings” and adds that they can be “challenging and obscure”[12].

The French literary theorist Gérard Genette developed a different approach to the concept of intertextuality. Since this approach is relevant to the following analysis of Genesis 6-9 and NtEotW, its explanation will be more detailed. Based on his basic assumption that “[t]he subject of poetics is not the text considered in its singularity, but rather […] the architextuality of the text”[13], Genette terms the subject of poetics transtextuality, which includes the notion of architextuality [14]. He defines the transtextuality of a text as “all that sets the text in a relationship, whether obivous or concealed, with other texts“[15]. Allen adds that transtextuality is Genette’s version of intertextuality and claims that Genette tries to dissociate from poststructural approaches by using the term ‘transtextuality’ to name the whole phenomenon, and then dividing it into five subcategories[16].

These categories, which are kinds of transtextuality, are referred to as intertextuality, paratextuality, metatextuality, hypertextuality and architextuality[17].

Genette defines intertextuality as “a relationship of copresence between two texts or among several texts [and as] the actual presence of one text within another”[18], and says that parts of one text can occur in other texts as quotations, plagiarism or allusion[19]. Allen emphasises that this definition differs from the concept of intertextuality in poststructuralism[20]. The paratext includes elements “which lie on the threshold of the text”[21] and which influence the readers’ reception of a text (100). It can be divided into peritext and epitext (100). The peritext includes titles, chapter titles, prefaces and notes, and the epitext consists of elements like reviews, interviews, private letters and publicity announcements (100). Genette employs the term metatextuality when one text comments another one without necessarily quoting or mentioning it[22]. By contrast, he defines hypertextuality as “any relationship uniting a text B ([…] hypertext) to an earlier text A ([…] hypotext), upon which it is grafted in a manner that is not that of commentary”[23]. Allen adds that most other critics call the hypotext inter-text, which is a text that “can be definitely located as a major source of signification for [another] text”[24]. The last category, which has already been mentioned above, is called architextuality. Genette defines the architextuality of a text as “die Gesamtheit jener allgemeinen und übergreifenden Kategorien – Diskurstypen, Äußerungsmodi, literarische Gattungen usw. – denen jeder einzelne Text angehört“[25] [26]. All in all, the phenomenon of intertextuality, as defined by Gérard Genette, enables the reader to develop a different understanding of a text[27].


[1] Geraldine McCaughrean. Not the End of the World. 2004. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2004. Cover.

[2] In this paper Not the End of the World is referred to as NtEotW.

[3] Elaine Martin. “Intertextuality: An Introduction.” The Comparatist: Journal of the Southern Comparative Literature Association 35 (2011): 148-151: 148.

[4] Graham Allen. Intertextuality. 2000. London [a.o.]: Routledge, 2011. 1. The other page numbers belonging to direct or indirect quotations from this book will be indicated in brackets in the text.

[5] Martin 148.

[6] Julia Kristeva. “Word, Dialogue and Novel.” The Kristeva Reader. Ed. Toril Moi. New York: Columbia University Press, 1986. 35-61: 37.

[7] Kristeva 37.

[8] Roland Barthes. “The Death of the Author.” The Routledge critical and cultural theory reader. Ed. Neil Badmington. London: Routledge, 2008. 121-125: 123.

[9] Allen 3.

[10] Barthes 124.

[11] Barthes 124.

[12] Michael Meyer. English and American literatures. 2004. Stuttgart: UTB, 2008. 154-55.

[13] Gérard Genette. Palimpsests: literature in the second degree. 1982. Lincoln [a.o.]: University of Nebraska Press, 1997. 1.

[14] Genette, Palimpsests 1.

[15] Genette, Palimpsests 1.

[16] Allen 98.

[17] Genette (Palimpsests 7) emphasises that these categories can overlap, and that they are not absolute.

[18] Genette Palimpsests 1-2.

[19] Gérard Genette. Palimpseste: Die Literatur auf zweiter Stufe. 1982. Frankurt/Main: Suhrkamp, 1993. 10.

[20] Allen 98.

[21] Allen 100. The other page numbers belonging to quotations from this book are indicated in brackets in the text.

[22] Genette Palimpseste 13.

[23] Genette Palimpsests 5.

[24] Allen 104. Consequently, Genesis 6-9 is a major inter-text for McCaughrean’s Not the End of the World.

[25] Genette Palimpseste 9.

[26] Of course, there are other approaches to the concept of intertextuality, for example the theory of Riffaterre. Since it is not relevant to the following part of the paper, it is left out here. More about his theory can be read in Graham Allen. Intertextuality. 2000. London [a.o.]: Routledge, 2011. 111-129.

[27] This and other functions of intertextuality can be found in Martin 149-150.

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Not the End of the World and Genesis 6-9: Expansions, Differences and New Perspectives
Explanation or Challenge of the ‘Original’!?
University of Rostock  (Institut für Anglistik/Amerikanistik)
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Auch wenn das Thema der Arbeit sehr speziell erscheint, bietet die Arbeit einen sehr interessanten Ansatz, der für Anglisten, Literaturwissenschaftler und Theologen gleichermaßen relevant ist.
world, genesis, expansions, differences, perspectives, explanation, challenge
Quote paper
Isabel Mund (Author), 2012, Not the End of the World and Genesis 6-9: Expansions, Differences and New Perspectives, Munich, GRIN Verlag,


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