Free «Gate's Theory of Intertextuality» Essay

Gate's Theory of Intertextuality

The selected pairing is in drama segment: Lorraine Hansberry's A Raisin in the Sun and August Wilson's Joe Turner's Come and Gone. Both drama stories are perfect examples for the discussion of Gate’s Theory. The analysis will bring up the most evident examples of traditional black aesthetics depicted in literature. Both stories will help see the real meaning of stable linguistics and culture units using the Gate’s theory that will help to drive clear situations and understand the specifics of this art.

The main aim of using Gate’s literary paradigm of Signifying Monkey will be to compare its realization in both A Raisin in the Sun and Joe Turner’s Come and Gone and find the reasons of its usage to express black literary aesthetics. Also, it is important to investigate the additional literature that will help to get the broader image of this theme in literature and detect its peculiarities. At the same time, it can also be possible to find common intertextual as well as contradictive frames that will enable to present clear specifics of Signifying Monkey paradigm in both examples.

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The following sources are used for this investigation: “The Blackness of Blackness” by Henry Louis Gate, Jr, Call and Response: The Riverside Anthology of the African American Literary Tradition by Patricia Liggins Hill and Bernard W. Bell, and In the Break: The Aesthetics of the Black Radical Tradition by Fred Moten among others.

The main object of the literature sources research are the examples and explanations of Gate’s paradigm and the search for its real meaning by analyzing the tendencies in the development of black art aesthetics in various spheres and its dependence on the sphere of intertextuality and semantics of linguistic phenomena (Moten 75).

The theory of intertextuality evolved mainly in the study of intertextual relationships in fiction literature. However, in reality the scope of its existence is much wider. Firstly, it is inherent in all verbal genres, not just belles-lettres. Secondly, intertextuality occurs not only in the texts in a narrow sense, i.e. verbal, but also in the texts constructed by means of other than natural languages, mostly symbolic systems. Intertextual relations are established between the works of art, architecture, music, theater, and cinema and penetrate into almost all spheres of life.

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In The Signifying Monkey Gates refers to the memoirs and autobiographical books of F. Douglas and slave narratives, poetry, novels of Harriet Wilson, Hannah Craft, Phillis Wheatley and other edition featuring articles, which built ideologically given paradigm interpretation of African-American literature. This activity pursued several objectives. The first one is, to respond to accusations of quasi-scientific speculation that followed the publication of The Signifying Monkey as it was necessary to support the invention of African-American literary studies with the theory of concrete material (Gates 97).

Secondly, the concept of globalization of black literary tradition that found its proof in the literature of 19th and 18th centuries, under this concept, arose in the 20th century (Peffer 56). Finally, a persistent struggle with historically correct notion of African American literature is described as a period of apprenticeship, when African American writers believed and supported assimilation of Western literary tradition (Collins and Crawford 124). These properties legitimate arising African American literary tradition and disclose its apprenticeships, imitation, conservatism, lack of originality and large, bright talents. The situation was very tangible and backlog of African American Literature mainstream had been finally overcome only by the beginning of the 1940s.

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Much work on introduction to was done by H.L. Gates worked a lot to implement the thesis about Art of African American equality authors in the cultural consciousness of the nation. Since the mid-1980s Afro American literature and its studies became one of the most rapidly developing trends in the humanitarian field in the United States. The rapid expansion of African-American studies led to their increasingly noticeable diversification. Then there was a significant expansion of reading material (Collins and Crawford 138). Finally, in the mid-1980s, ‘Old’ black literature was beginning to attract more attention, especially after treatment of H.L. Gates, the legislator of intellectual fashion, to the story of the first black slaves and the novels of the 19th century. He did much work to reissue the texts and search forgotten works.

Speaking about the idea of the work The Signifying Monkey, it is important to see the development and the argumentation of the paradigm about the intertextuality. The connection between the separate and non-connected pieces of literature, and especially African American literature, becomes evident in terms of the phenomena that were disclosed in this article.

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It is not just about a particular ethnic group, but about the fate of all mankind, a man in a broad historical, cultural and philosophical context as the fore issues of spirituality and morality, tolerance and mercy, humanity and personal identity, spiritual values and historical memory. The issues of identity, cultural assimilation and the problems of ‘loss of roots’, ‘normal’ and marginality, ‘persons’ and ‘masks’, ‘border’ and existence in space also play a significant role in this work. The problem of ‘borderlands’ also acquired special importance in modern literature. All these problems can also be found in the works under analysis - Lorraine Hansberry's A Raisin in the Sun and August Wilson's Joe Turner's Come and Gone.

The eternal problems of human life when people search and find and have dreams and aims in their life can be brightly seen in both pieces. These dramas represent two different time periods, however, it is possible to see similar aims of people. The main characters of both stories have their main tasks in life. However, for Younger family the ideas were more global and more signifying than for the main protagonists of August Wilson’s drama (Hill and Bell 1221). The story of Younger family belongs to a more antecedent layer of literature and reveals valuable questions that were important for every family. These factors include having their own house, which is contrary to a more contemporary sample in which the  whole story is based on living in the boarding house.

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The main idea of both stories is search of the final destination and the meaning of life. For Mama Younger it was a nice family house in pleasant surroundings; despite the fact that it was in the white part of the city, the house was cheap, conveniently located to all necessary city establishments including school, hospital and supermarkets. For Bynum, Loomis, Rueben and other characters – having their own place of living is not that important as they can always come to a boarding house and have a warm and cozy bed, some breakfast, and a nice chat with the owners (Hill and Bell 1820). The only white person in the story Joe Turner’s Come and Gone is Rutherford Selig that is depicted as a very nice person but he does not have a very nice history of his family being the first one to bring the African people to America to become slaves.

However, he is a very kind person and helps other people. He is a symbol of unity and finding peace for every soul. The only white character in the previous story is Karl Lindner who became the person who expressed some sort of racist ideas by trying to give money to Younger family to keep them from moving into the white neighborhood. He is a symbol of sad reality but at the same time, he is the one who united Walter with his family and due to him the family finally moved to their new house.

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The connecting points for both stories are white protagonists that express racial prejudices one way or the other, or reveal the history of slavery or make the reader see the reaction and relation of the white world to the family and people of the black one.

This contrasting method is very popular and widely used by all writers of African American literature. It is essential to present at least one white participant of the action to make the story reveal one more important problem of inequality and draw people’s attention to it in an eternal search for answers and finding the reasons of this situation to happen in life. Intertextuality can be easily seen in the manners of speaking, the white are always wealthy or were wealthy and have a lot of connections and useful ties in the world or have some influential knowledge that the black protagonists do not have. This is one characteristic detail for all samples of African American literature. This is also one of the determining points for every piece of traditional black literature aesthetics (Moten 104).

Contextual building of dramas allows the reader to maximize the range of modifications and manifestations of dreams. Both stories present them as an ephemeral fantasy game or groundless human imagination, and as a real hope, reflecting the desire for a better, more dignified life. The interpretation of dreams motive intertextually correlated with many works, which described the dreams in which imagination and illusive feelings are key themes. However, while in Western literature the reader expects a comic denouement, the finals of both dramas are rather prosaic and their characters have to leave their illusionary world and face the ugly reality.

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The selected works involve the use of such intertextual techniques as the approval of the author's personality and his own position on the issues concerned, dialogically correlated with the positions of others, and engaging in a dialogue of different opinions, perspectives and value systems. Besides, there were a lot of moments improving expressiveness and semantic content of their works through many different levels of intertextual inclusions.

All these techniques perform plot-composite, shaped, characterological, parody, and axiological function in both dramas. The destruction of the hierarchical structures of the canons, subversion categories of totality and universality uphold the principles of pluralism, multiplicity and multi-variant. The writers also successfully used debunking notions of universality of the values and ways of resolving problems and conflicts, and thus the reflection of the problematic discourse created the classic picture of reality.

Modern studies of principle of intertextuality in African American literature are based on the ideas of the author’s contextual center. The idea of the text being centered over the author involves consideration of intertextuality as a polemical dialogue of authors, reflecting different ideological, philosophical, artistic and aesthetic positions. The intertextual analysis of studies is to be included in the text under the notion of ‘contextual’. Historical, social and cultural contexts that shaped the ideological and semantic foundation are involved in the dialogue of both works.

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Both dramas dialogically correlated with a lot of precedent texts that represent cultures and traditions widely separated from each other. The main sources of borrowing in the dramas include: fiction, classics of world literature, the Bible, as well as folklore, poems, music, specific songs and mythological tradition including magic and world of spirits. This additionally proves that intertextuality is found in all spheres of human life. Speaking about African American literature, both works are deeply connected with the motifs and aesthetic traditions of black literature.

The main characters of the stories are frustrated because of the constant search for better life – this is the most evident intertextual line that can be found in all the samples of black literature. The symbolism of this leitmotif is evident as it shows the life of all African American people during all periods of their history, while they were struggling for their freedom.

They have to fight during all their life for their chance to study at school they choose, to live in the neighborhood they decided to live in and to go their own way either by living a life of American dream or to go back to the historical background and traditions and find the real roots.











The concept of intertextuality by H.L. Gates has acquired the highest authority among modern scholars of African-American literature. He was the one who introduced the borrowed term Signifying, interpreted as ‘repetition with a distinct wrapped or inversion meaning’ to the scientific use of African American folklore. The term Signifying does not imply a direct showdown with the discourse of its predecessor, but hidden implicit polemic with him based on a play on words, the use of tropes, allusions, linguistic ambiguities, parody and pastiche requiring explication, decryption by penetrating into the deeper layers of meaning of the work (Moten 115). ‘Signification’, according to Gates, most adequately describes the processes of intertextual interaction in African American literature and reflects the phenomenon of ‘polyphony’ and semantic multilevel of African American text.

Moreover, it inevitably involves an intertextual dialogue of at least two literary traditions – Western (European and American) and African American. Following other studies, a researcher likens the relationship of writers to the rivalry between father and son, and claims that in the process of ‘signification’ striving for self-determination and self-affirmation, ‘strong writer’ borrows important aspects from the ‘father's text,’ but at the same time symbolically ‘kills’ his predecessor default hidden sources of borrowing, causing distortion and radical transformation of its artistic heritage.

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The researcher of intertextual perspective in the context of African American literary tradition Janet Berry Hess developed a specific model of intertextuality, which is based on the idea of co-creation as an intertextual dialogue and cooperation with its predecessor, whose texts are a source of ‘inspiring influence’ for a new generation of writers (84).

In this case, deconstruction of the pretext is not intended to self-assertion and self-promotion at the expense of literary classics, but also reflects a desire to continue the tradition by creating positive symbiosis.

The intertextuality paradigm acquired through the concept of ‘signification’ by H.L Gates, who based his research elements of the theory on dialogism, intertextuality and influence has the highest authority in the context of research of African American literature. The categories of underlying intertextual perspective in the texts of African-American authors are author- and contextually centric. These categories, as well as an emphasis on acts of adaptation and transformation of the adopted elements and structures should be submitted for the consideration of the relevant issues of intertextuality in the work of Lorraine Hansberry and August Wilson that formed the basis of this study. The most significant and creative African American writers used two sets of literary associations: with the biblical text and the folklore and mythological tradition of African American and early Western literature. As an advocate of intertextual dominants most  texts represent classical European Renaissance, Harlem Renaissance of the 1920s and ‘black’ revival of the 1960s with which the dialogue is conducted from the perspective of the most influential writers in contemporary African American literature.

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