In This Article Expand or collapse the "in this article" section Intertextuality in Latin Poetry

  • Introduction
  • Cross-Literary Intertextual Theory
  • Ancient Discourse on Intertextuality
  • Influence of Hellenistic Poetry and Scholarship
  • Archaic Period
  • Neoterics
  • Early Empire
  • Late Antiquity

Classics Intertextuality in Latin Poetry
Neil Coffee
  • LAST REVIEWED: 22 April 2013
  • LAST MODIFIED: 22 April 2013
  • DOI: 10.1093/obo/9780195389661-0113


The phenomenon of meaningful connections between texts, or “intertextuality,” has been defined and addressed differently over time. In pre-Alexandrian antiquity, discussion focused on large-scale influence of authors and literary works upon one another. Alexandrian scholarship introduced the study of small-scale verbal correspondences, which were generally regarded as acts of imitation (mimesis/imitatio) or rivalry (zelos/aemulatio). A continuous dialogue with Greek predecessors and culture of writing (rather than oral performance) contributed to a rich intertextual exchange among Roman poets. Modern theoretical studies have debated the ontological status of intertextual phenomena, particularly the extent to which they exist in the mind of the author, the text, or the mind of the reader. They have been concerned more narrowly with their classification by rhetorical function and language feature and more broadly with the workings of literary influence and inheritance. The ultimate interest lies in how intertexts create meaning; therefore, much intertextual study consists of works dedicated to comparisons of individual texts as well as those that employ intertextuality as one mode of criticism brought to bear on other topics.

Cross-Literary Intertextual Theory

Contemporary discussion of intertextuality in Latin poetry has periodically intersected with the broader conversation on intertextuality in the humanities. The works in this section represent entry points to the latter. Bloom 1973 presents an author-centered view of the literary influence that was influential on studies of modern authors, and marginally so for classical studies. Ben-Porat 1976 is an early detailed exposition of the nature of intertextuality from a semiotic perspective. Jauss 1982 elaborates a reader-centered view of intertextuality that also found an advocate in Wolfgang Iser. Kristeva 1986 is important for coining the term “intertextuality” within a dense philosophical discussion. Piégay-Gros and Bergez 1996 and Allen 2011 both offer broad introductions to the field; for readers of French, the former is more concise. Irwin 2002 offers an attractively brief and clear exposition of what is required from an allusion to bring aesthetic pleasure. Machacek 2007 is a specific argument about the utility of various terms for intertextuality that provides access to more recent views.

  • Allen, Graham. 2011. Intertextuality. 2d ed. New York: Routledge.

    Survey of the origins of the concept of intertextuality and its modern development, with introductions and references to the views of major theorists, including Saussure, Bakhtin, Kristeva, Barthes, Genette, Riffaterre, and Bloom.

  • Ben-Porat, Ziva. 1976. The poetics of literary allusion. PTL: A Journal for Descriptive Poetics and Theory of Literature 1:105–128.

    Linguistic and semiotic exploration of intertextuality emphasizing relatedness of formal features.

  • Bloom, Harold. 1973. The anxiety of influence: A theory of poetry. New York: Oxford Univ. Press.

    Advances a theory that the psychology of the later author is the major determinant for shaping reuse of and engagement with predecessors. Bloom himself sees this as a largely modern phenomenon, in contrast to the premodern artisan aesthetic allowing less inhibited reuse. However, critics of classical literature, such as Hubbard 1998 (cited under Localized Intertextuality), have appealed to his theories.

  • Irwin, William T. 2002. The aesthetics of allusion. The Journal of Value Inquiry 36.4: 521–532.

    DOI: 10.1023/A:1021961406123

    A short, lucid essay on what is required to make an allusion work aesthetically.

  • Jauss, Hans R. 1982. Toward an aesthetic of reception. Minneapolis: Univ. of Minnesota Press.

    Major statement by one founder of reception theory, centering on the reader’s experience.

  • Kristeva, Julia. 1986. Word, dialogue and novel. In The Kristeva reader. Edited by Toril Moi, 34–61. New York: Columbia Univ. Press.

    Originally published in 1969. Discussion of the consequences of the dialogic nature of texts asserted by Bakhtin in which Kristeva coins the term “intertextuality.”

  • Machacek, Gregory. 2007. Allusion. Publications of the Modern Language Association of America 122.2: 522–536.

    DOI: 10.1632/pmla.2007.122.2.522

    Argument for revision of conceptual distinctions that provides a survey of contemporary perspectives.

  • Piégay-Gros, Nathalie, and Daniel Bergez. 1996. Introduction à l’intertextualité. Paris: Dunod.

    Accessible introduction to the history and concepts of intertextuality.

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