Intertextuality in the 21st Century

In Mark Danielewski’s House of Leaves, intertextuality structures the entire novel, and is a key element of its publication. According to the Oxford English Dictionary, this term began to be used in 1973 and is defined as “the need for one text to be read in the light of its allusions to and differences from the content or structure of other texts.” There are three main authors of the text, Johnny Truant, Zampano, and the editors; the entirety is made up of Johnny’s narrative and footnotes, Zampano’s compilation of the Navidson Record, and the editors edits and notes on the compilation.

Intertextuality has been used for centuries before being properly defined, such as in Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein when it references Milton’s “Paradise Lost.” However, House of Leaves uses this method in a new manner. It differs greatly and unlike Frankenstein, the story would be severely fragmented without it being compiled together. This creates a whole new element in literature that reflects reality; in which a person realistically cannot get a full story without knowing several perspectives surrounding it. In the novel, without the inclusion of Johnny’s introduction or the Whalestoe Letters, it could only known from fine print that a Johnny Truant complied Zampano’s findings and that would be that. However, the reader is given another side to the story and it aids the entire experience.

This novel form of writing reflects a new medium to pass on stories and reflects the realistic aspects that define post modernism. The Marvel Cinematic Universe also uses intertextuality through its movies and series in order to create an overarching universe. Realistically, one could not gather all sides of the story from a single film and requires the surrounding serieses and other films to ground it and make it more dimensional for the reader. Why is this relevant? Because it redefines storytelling mediums, and this novel form reflects the Age of Information and how we are all individually processing information through different mediums in order to compile it into a linear story.  

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