Intertextuality: a Timeless and Borderless Dialogue (LS-EU-281)

How does intertextuality place the reader in an endless dialogue?

Getting our students to read is often a challenge. How to get them into the pleasure of reading? Perhaps by making them aware that the narrator is not only telling a story but also talking to us and engaging us in a dialogue that began before us. The intertextuality process thus appears particularly interesting. Intertextuality is defined as the set of relationships that a text has with other civilisers.

Based on Europeana resources and proposed by Nathalie CHESSÉ-CHESNOT (European Schools, Brussels), this learning scenario addresses intertextuality in a multidisciplinary project: Literature, Philosophy, History, Art History. The aim is to get students more involved in reading by making them understand that reading is entering into a dialogue.

Which works and subjects to choose?

Working on intertextuality may involve the use of other disciplines, each of which sheds light on the problem. Here, History, Philosophy and Art History will be valuable resources.

The works studied are Robinson Crusoe written in the XVIIIth century by Daniel Defoe, an Englishman and Friday and the wildlife written by Michel Tournier in the XXth. This story of a shipwrecked man, alone on his island, has always questioned each of us.

Such a fascination explains the multiple rewritings of the text: Robinson’s character has become a myth. What are we without a society? What role do others play in our lives? In the first version, Robinson tries to reconstruct the model of his society; he will want to civilise the wild Friday. Regarding this first work, I’ve chosen to work on Michel Tournier’s rewriting and answer to Defoe.  Here the hero is no longer the white civiliser but the “savage”. The title of the novel that makes him a hero says enough about the reversal of perspective: Friday or wildlife.

Robinson Crusoë, Museon.

Integrating students into this dialogue

We can thus see that Tournier responds to Defoe, the intertextuality shows that in the field of culture, there are neither geographical nor temporal borders. It will, therefore, be a question of integrating the student into this dialogue: what does he think of this new perspective? In what way is Defoe’s Robinson’s attitude a reflection of the world view at a time when great empires were based on colonisation? How did it legitimise itself through political discourse? How was the discovery of the other during these periods of colonisation experienced? The difference could fascinate, as evidenced by the popularity of orientalism in both literary and pictorial fields. Here again, the analysis of orientalism will be valuable.

Would you like to know more about this learning scenario? You can download it below:

CC BY-NC-SA 4.0: The featured image used to illustrate this article has been found on Europeana Collections

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