Semiotics and Intertextuality

Semiotics and Intertextuality

The semiotic notion of intertextuality is associated primarily with poststructuralist theorists. Each media text exists in relation to others. In fact, texts owe more to other texts than to their own makers. Texts are framed by others in many ways. Most obvious are formal frames: a television programme, for instance, may be part of a series and part of a genre (soap or sitcom). Our understanding of any individual text relates to such framings. Genre theory: Within semiotics genres can be seen as sign systems or codes – conventionalized but dynamic structures.

Each example of a genre utilises conventions which link it to other members of that genre. Such conventions are at their most obvious in ‘spoof’ versions of the genre. Links also cross the boundaries of formal frames, for instance, in sharing topics with treatments within other genres (the theme of war is found in a range of genres such action-adventure film, documentary, news, current affairs). Some genres are shared by several media: the genres of soap, game show and phone-in are found on both television and radio; the genre of the news report is found on TV, radio and in newspapers; the advertisement appears in all mass media forms.

Texts sometimes allude directly to each other as in ‘remakes’ of films, and in many amusing contemporary TV ads. Texts in the genre of the trailer are directly tied to specific texts within or outside the same medium. The genre of the programme listing exists within the medium of print (listings magazines, newspapers) to support the media of TV, radio and film. TV soaps generate substantial coverage in popular newspapers, magazines and books; the ‘magazine’ format was adopted by TV, radio and now by Web.

Each text exists within a vast “society of texts” in various genres and media: no text is an island entire of itself. A useful semiotic technique is comparison and contrast between differing treatments of similar themes (or similar treatments of different themes), within or between different genres or media…. Questions for You and Me Intertextuality Does it allude to other genres? Does it allude to or compare with other texts within the genre? How does it compare with treatments of similar themes within other genres? Very good book on genres by Michail Bakhtin, although he is not pure simiotician.

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