Thursday, May 08, 2008


At the TLS, Eric Griffiths on intertextuality:
The simultaneously drab and lurid metaphor of “mosaic” usually recurs in intertextual studies uninvigorated by such attention to how and why mosaics are various, how distinct a mosaic of the Virgin Mary in the apse of Santa Maria Assunta on Torcello is from a mosaic of a smiley dolphin on the floor of my rich friend’s swimming pool. The metaphor is inherently flawed, because we can in principle count the number of bits in a mosaic, whereas the question “how many quotations (in a Kristevan sense) are there in Purgatorio 26?” is as inane as the question “how many sounds are there in this article?”. For the mosaic-metaphor to have a point, it needs to be taken both less seriously than is usual among literary academics (it tells us little about the organization even of centos and dictionaries of quotations) and more seriously. Taking it more seriously requires admitting that mosaics are normally representations of something other than their tesserae.

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