Intertextualism: Practice It, Focus It, Adapt It

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From Keesey’s Introduction to Chapter 5, “Intertextual Criticism: Literature as Context”:

“Intertextual critics, by contrast, though not necessarily denying that certain symbols may have special potency, feel no need to locate the power of myths or symbols in the unconscious or in the extraliterary.  Like the conventions of language, literary conventions are arbitrary, and they must, therefore, be learned.  From this perspective, readers who fail to respond to King Lear, say, or to Moby Dick, are no psychologically defective; they simply don’t know how to read well enough” (271). 

Keesey’s explanation of intertextual criticism makes a lot of sense to me.  After all, I believe that all people can interpret literature, but some people are obviously better at it than other people.  It makes sense that this could be because some people have read more than others.  The more you read, the more practice you will have had interpreting literature, and as they say, practice makes perfect. 

Another reason I really like intertexual criticism is that it shifts the focus away from the non-literary (such as psychology) and focuses entirely on the literary and books.  I’m not saying that using psychology is not useful, but I really think that when you bring in other forms of study, it is easy to let the focus shift from the literary work itself to something else, which kind of defeats the purpose of it being literary criticism.  So all in all, I would say that I think intertexual criticism seems like a much more useful tool than some of the others we have been studying.  It does not demote those who do not like a literary work, it keeps the focus on the literary, and it still allows one to use many schools of criticism.   

Read what my classmates have to say on Keesey. 


I agree that intertextual relationships are valuable but you can also discredit them easily. If you take into account the "monomyth" then everything is intertextual. If everything is intertextual, then how is it noteworthy?

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