Transtextuality according to Gérard Genette: and beyond

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One of the paradoxes at the heart of musical intertextuality is that although musicological discourse appears to have absorbed the notion rather effortlessly, it is only seldom that we fully engage with the theoretical and practical implications of the view that, like any text, the musical text ‘is the absorption and transformation of another text’ (Julia Kristeva). There have been several attempts to map intertextuality as a field of study. In this regard, Gérard Genette’s taxonomies in Palimpsestes may be drawn upon profitably – and if possible, enlarged upon. Genette himself defined transtextuality (a wider-ranging concept than intertextuality) as ‘the textual transcendence of the text’, thus pointing towards the dismantling of the opposition between the ‘inside’ and the ‘outside’ of the text. Moreover, Genette suggested that music offered a promising field for transtextual studies. Genette’s own treatment of musical issues remained sketchy, however, and musicologists (with few exceptions) have yet to take up the challenge of developing the ideas put forward in his work. In this chapter, I offer an overview of the main lines of Genette’s thinking, as a starting point for a discussion of some of the possible ways to amplify a theory of musical transtextuality beyond Genettian categories.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationIntertextuality in Music
Subtitle of host publicationDialogic Composition
EditorsVioletta Kostka, Paulo F. de Castro, William A. Everett
Place of PublicationLondon
Number of pages14
ISBN (Electronic)9781003092834
ISBN (Print)9780367552909
Publication statusPublished - 18 Jun 2021


  • Arts
  • Humanities
  • Language & Literature


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