This week, I decided to move away from the materialism and commodification of the university system I’ve lately become obsessed with and talk about a topic that’s a little more fun: intertextuality.
What is intertextuality?
If you ask Frank J. D’Angelo in 2009, he would tell you that intertextuality is deployed in a series of related ways. In his article “The Rhetoric of Intertextuality” published in the Rhetoric Review in 2009, D’Angelo informs the reader through the use of various definitions, that intertextuality can be adaptation, retro, appropriation, parody, pastiche, or simulation. And while this is an interesting and useful reading of intertextuality, it feels incredibly shallow, and… well… D’Angelo is not very cool. “The Rhetoric of Intertextuality” feels like my grandfather wrote it, and that’s only after he consciously decided to not know much about popular culture for at least ten years prior. His examples too often feel bizarre, and a little out of left-field. And I find it irritating that D’Angelo begins each section by using a dictionary definition – a technique I tell my students not to use since dictionaries don’t have context. And while D’Angelo has some great ideas, and I really really DO think this article is useful pedagogically, I think he’s reaching in a lot of places. When he’s talking about adaptation, and the way we make one work into various commodities like film adaptations, action figures, electronic media, and so on – is this really adaptation? Isn’t it just commerce gone awry? Then, I’m not sure why retro is separate from adaptation. Isn’t making something retro (or as D’Angelo tells it, recycled) just a re-appropriation of older ideas?
Wait – didn’t I say I’d be moving away from commodification? It looks like I lied.
However – if you sandwich D’Angleo with Baudrillard‘s essay “America” – intertextuality becomes beautiful. It becomes the way in which we look at space – and as anyone who has ever studied anything space related, “to examine space” is a BIG statement.
By ‘sandwich,’ I mean I read the “America” excerpt, largely had no idea what it was about, read D’Angelo, and then went back to “America.” Then I said, “Oh. I get why this is cool.”
Baudrillard takes the vast, ’empty’ spaces of America and laces them intertextually with other concepts like silence, magic, objective, technology and primitivity. Reading “America” is like being reminded of all the things I’ve ever taken for granted. I grew up in the desert, and I always thought it was ugly. And then I left. And when I came back – I realized how much of what Baudrillard laces together here is the closest thing to an accurate description that I may have ever encountered. Silence is a big part of living an a desert. Before the Phoenix metro area got so large it takes more than 3 hours to drive out of it, we could drive 2 hours in any direction and be in almost any climate – totally disconnected, in technology-free, magic-like spaces, sometimes with no objective other that to just go. How very American.
And now I think I might get it.
Intertextuality is an illustrated (sometimes) version of metaphor.