intertextuality (noun) a term coined by Julia Kristeva to designate the various relationships that a given text may have with other texts. These intertextual relationships include anagram, allusion, adaptation, translation, parody, pastiche, imitation and other kinds of transformation. In the literary theories of structuralism and post-structuralism, texts are seen to refer to other texts (or to themselves as texts) rather than to external reality. The term intertext has been used variously for a text drawing on other texts, for a text thus drawn upon, and for the relationship between both. ( Concise Oxford Dictionary of Literary Terms ) In Intertextuality , Graham Allen describes "intertextuality" in the opening of the book this way: The idea that when we read a work of literature we are seeking to find a meaning which lies inside that work seems completely commonsensical. Literary texts possess meaning; readers extract that meaning from them. We call the process

What is Comparative Literature?

From English to comparative literature Equipped with a collection of degrees in English language and literature, for two decades, I taught, researched and published in a field called "comparative literature."  As near as I can judge, the discipline got its English name in the early 20th century from a faulty translation of the French expression " littérature comparée ."  The literature which comparativists study isn't comparative in any meaningful sense.   It would make some sense to call the subject "compared literatures" (a literal translation of " littératures comparées ") or, even more obviously and aptly, "comparative studies of literature." However, we specialists learned to succumb and accept the terminology that got us tenure without a whimper until some first-year undergraduate asked us "what exactly does 'comparative literature' mean?" Then we mumbled and grumbled about students who hadn't done enough

What Is "Romantic Irony"?

Schlegel coined the term These days, the concept of "romantic irony" is particularly difficult to grasp for a number of reasons.  In the first place, the phrase was coined by Friedrich Schlegel, the German romanticist, who was vague and aphoristic in defining the concept. The Meaning of "romantic" Additionally, what Schlegel meant by "romantic" is a subject of debate.  According to the Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy : What Schlegel meant by the term “romantic” and its apparent cognate "Roman" (usually translated as “novel,” but having among the Romantics a much wider sense) has long been disputed. [ . . .], Schlegel saw the historical origins of “the romantic” in the wide mixture of forms and genres that characterized medieval literature and took it as the point of departure for a genre-transcending notion that allows even Shakespeare's plays or Dante's Commedia to be Romane . Romantic Irony From a present-day perspective, "

The Case Against "The Case Against Reality"

The Case Against Reality When a friend (thanks Fred!) lent me a copy of Donald Hoffman's The Case Against Reality:  Why Evolution Hid the Truth from our Eyes, it was number five or six on the list of books I was planning to read.  However, glancing at the preface, my curiosity got the better of me, it jumped the queue and I started reading.  I had already heard the broad outlines of Hoffman's argument that what we call "reality" is a holograph filled with icons like the ones on the desktop of a computer.  I couldn't imagine that I would ever accept Hoffman's conclusions but reading, like life, is about the journey not the destination. Analytic Philosophy Much of my undergraduate education was in analytic philosophy, meaning I was schooled to pay particular attention to the terms Hoffman used in constructing his argument. Immediately, my skepticism was aroused by his use of the words "truth" and "true."  (I have already written on t

Should the Washington Redskins Be Renamed the Washington Rednecks?

The Washington Redskins' name controversy Wikipedians have outdone themselves in outlining the multiple aspects and perspectives of the Washington Redskins' name controversy . Personally, I have always interpreted the expression "redskin" as a racist slur. However, despite complaints, protests and a number of court cases, "Redskins" has survived as the name of the Washington NFL team since 1933. Justification and defense of the name include the fact that some Native Americans support its use and even use it themselves as an object of pride. Additionally, the expression's origins are etymologically neutral and only took on negative connotations from the way the locution has been used.   How language evolves As I've pointed out elsewhere, in the evolution of language, usage trumps definitions and origins . How a word gets used eventually becomes its meaning. "Redskin," particularly as it has been dominantly used in American culture, is

What Is Literature about?

Can literature be about life? When I was teaching a course on American Literature, one of my students, a woman in her twenties, was a mother of five children. I would occasionally see her and her husband with the kids in the park where my son played soccer. One evening her husband was alone with the kids and approached my son and me as we were tossing a Frisbee. He emanated an intensity that I associated with being the young father of five. Nodding hello, he said, "My wife is in your American literature course." Honestly, I assumed I was in trouble and braced myself. "At night we sit at the kitchen table," he said, "and my wife tells me about your course." Then he told me, "I thought a literature course would be just about books, but yours is about life." He went on to express his regret that he couldn't take the course. The Rules of postmodernism It was a supreme compliment, and I cherish it to this day. But, at the time, I re

"Judicial Independence" in Canadian Extradition Law

The Canadian Extradition Act There is no "judicial independence" in Canadian extradition law.  Louise Arbour,  former UN High Commissioner for Human Rights , justice of the Supreme Court of Canada and Chief Prosecutor of the International Criminal Tribunals , has been trying to educate the Canadian public on this basic fact in Canadian law. The Canadian Extradition Act is available online and is clear (and I encourage you to click the hyperlink), in Canada, extradition is, ultimately, the responsibility of the executive branch of government (meaning the politicians we elect) not the judiciary.  Despite the obvious letter of the law, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau continues to stubbornly repeat the fallacy that " judicial independence " must be maintained in the Meng extradition trial. His use of the phrase "judicial independence" is proof that he has never looked at the Canadian Extradition Act .  Imagine: in a matter of minutes, anyone with an inter