Literary Relations: Intertextuality

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Course TypeCourse CodeNo. Of Credits
Foundation ElectiveSOL2CL1064

Semester and Year Offered: WS 2016

Course Coordinator and Team: Radha Chakravarty

Email of course coordinator: radha[at]aud[dot]ac[dot]in

Pre-requisites: None


This course encourages students to think beyond the book to its connections with larger frames of signification. The links between literature, language, culture, history and society, form the core concerns. Offering the student a working knowledge of concepts and theories related to intertextuality and its variants (especially transtextuality), the course provides an entry point into some of the central debates and issues in Comparative Literature and Translation Studies. From ideas of imitation and influence, reception and transformation, mimicry and parody, the course tracks the changes in a field that has today expanded to include digital technologies of reading. Focusing on the politics of intertextuality, it opens up radical, interventionist possibilities that resituate literature and language at the heart of social and cultural transformations. The course also underscores the centrality of translation in comparative literary practices in a multilingual world. Moving beyond the written text to other disciplines and cultural practices, the course situates Comparative Literature and Translation Studies as an interdisciplinary field where various strands of the Humanities and Social Sciences intersect in significant ways.

Course Outcomes:

Upon successful completion of the course, the student will be able to:

  1. Recognize certain key concepts and methods of Comparative Literature and Translation Studies.
  2. Understand literary relations in a broad interdisciplinary domain beyond the narrowly ‘literary’
  3. Approach literary texts with a sense of connectivity between disparate histories, geographies, languages and cultures.
  4. Work with translation theory and practice as an interventionist process, a way of thinking across boundaries that divide literatures, languages and cultures.

Brief description of modules/ Main modules:

Module 1: Theoretical approaches: Introduction to concepts and terminology.

This module offers an introduction to ideas, concepts and terminology related to theories of intertextuality. The idea is to draw the student into the discourse and vocabulary of Comparative Literature and Translation Studies.

Module 2: Ways of reading: Debates and issues in Comparative Literature.

This module engages the student in debates and issues related to intertextuality, focusing on paradigm shifts in key areas of Comparative Literature.

Module 3: Politics of intertextuality: Interventionist possibilities

This module emphasizes the interventionist possibilities inherent in literary relations. It underscores the links between literature, culture and history, and demonstrates the radical potential of intertextuality as a mode of resistance.

Module 4: Translation and Comparative Literature

This module focuses on the role of translation in connecting languages and cultures. It draws attention to the idea of transtextuality, or thinking beyond the book.

Module 5: Literature and other cultural practices: Emerging interfaces

This module operates at the interfaces between literature and other cultural practices, such as cinema, performance, media and the visual arts. Through the prism of interdisciplinarity, it problematizes the relationship between Comparative Literature and Cultural Studies. It also raises questions about the changes ushered in by new technologies of reading in the digital age.

Assessment Details with weights:

Continuous assessment, based on

  • Class participation (this may include quiz/test/presentation) 30%
  • Assignment 30%
  • Term paper 40%
  • [In some cases, a work of translation of suitable length and quality may be accepted in lieu of the term paper, if accompanied by brief introductory and explanatory/critical material.]

Reading List: (Indicative only)

Module 1:

  • Mikhail Bakhtin, “Discourse in the Novel”, The Dialogic Imagination: Four Essays
  • Roland Barthes, “The Death of the Author”, Image- Music-Text (1977).
  • Julia Kristeva, “Word, Dialogue, Novel”, Desire in Language: A Semiotic Approach to Literature and Art.
  • Milton: Paradise Lost (extract from Book I)
  • T.S. Eliot: “The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock”

Module 2:

  • Graham Allen, “Structuralist Approaches: Genette & Riffaterre” Intertextuality
  • Harold Bloom, The Anxiety of Influence [Extract].
  • Sylvia Plath, “Mary’s Song”
  • William Carlos Williams, “The Red Wheelbarrow”

Module 3:

  • Gayatri Chakravorty Spivak, “Three Women’s Texts and a Critique of Imperialism”.
  • Elaine Showalter, “Feminism and Literature”.
  • Harish Trivedi: "Colonial Influence, Postcolonial Intertextuality"
  • Jean Rhys: Wide Sargasso Sea

Module 4:

  • Rabindanath Tagore, “The Broken Nest”
  • Premchand, “The Price of Milk”
  • Sadat Hasan Manto, “Toba Tek Singh”

Module 5:

  • Thomas Leitch, “Adaptation & Intertextuality”
  • George P. Landow, “Hypertext & Critical Theory” (extract).


  • Ferdinand Saussure, A Course in General Linguistics (1974)
  • Gerard Genette, Palimpsests: Literature in the Second Degree (1997)
  • Michael Riffaterre, “Intertextual Representation: On Mimesis as Interpretive Discourse”, Critical Inquiry 11:1 (1984), 141-62.
  • Harold Bloom, “The Belatedness of Strong Poetry”, A Map of Misreading (1975).
  • Sandra Gilbert and Susan Gubar, The Madwoman in the Attic (1979)
  • Linda Hutcheon, A Poetics of Postmodernism: History, Theory, Fiction (1988)
  • Sisir Kumar Das, History of Indian Literature Volume 8: 1810-1910. (1991)
  • Aijaz Ahmad, In Theory (1992)
  • Emily Apter, The Translation Zone (2003)
  • Gayatri Chakravorty Spivak, Readings (2014)
  • Charlotte Bronte: Jane Eyre
  • A.K. Ramanujan, “Three Hundred Ramayanas”
  • Rabih Alameddine, An Unnecessary Woman (novel)
  • Films: Apocalypse Now and Charulata