Category Archives: Week4

Dialogism in modern Teen RomComs

Vittoria Somaschini

This week, I found the readings to be extremely interesting, however, I also found it challenging to find something that I wanted to focus on. I chose dialogism, and with dialogism I would like to analysis some of today’s RomComs. The first that comes to mind is Gil Junger’s 10 Things I hate about You  (1999) and subsequently Will Gluck’s Easy A (2010). Both films are in dialogue with famous works, the former William Shakespeare’s The Taming of the Shrew, and the latter Nathaniel Hawthorne’s The Scarlet Letter. 

10_Things_I_Hate_About_You_filmI chose these two films because both fit neatly into a sub genre of Teen RomComs, but have used the original texts in different ways to tell their respective stories. 10 Things I Hate about You  is more closely linked to the text, including direct lines throughout the film such as when Cameron first sees Bianca and he exclaims, “I pine, I burn, I perish”. Easy A  on the other hand more loosely uses the plot of The Scarlet Letter and re-crafts the story to meet modern tastes as well as understandings of what it means to be ostracized. Easy A  goes one step further and is in dialogue with many of the teen RomComs of the 80’s that came before it. While 10 Things I Hate about You is in dialogue with Shakespeare, Easy A  is in dialogue with Ferris Bueller’s Day Off, Say Anything, Sixteen Candles etc. making it an eclectic mix of modern love sagas as well as referencing back to The Scarlett Letter  which dictates the entire plot. In Agger’s article, he states, “literary development is often described in terms of a three-phase model: development, stagnation, and renewal, all of which correspond to different currents” (Agger 1992). I find that both of the films are able to renew the literary works that they are in dialogue with and tailor them to meet modern audiences’ tastes. 

Works cited:

Agger, Gunhild. “Intertextuality Revisited: Dialogues and Negotiations in Media Studies.” Intertextuality Revisited: Dialogues and Negotiations in Media Studies. N.p., n.d.

Easy A. Dir. Will Gluck. Perf. Emma Stone and Amanda Bynes. Will Gluck Productions, 2010.

10 Things I Hate about You. Dir. Gil Junger. Perf. Heath Ledger and Julia Stiles. Touchstone Pictures, 1999.


Pitingo: flamenco and soul.


“No one, no “person” says it:  its source, its voice, is not the true place of the writing, which is the reading… The reader is the space on which all the quotations that make up a writing are inscribed without any of them being lost; a text unity lies not in its origin but in its destination…The birth of the reader must be at the cost of the death of the Author.” (Roland Barthes, The Death). Following Barthes´ affirmations that the death of the author is the birth of the reader, I wonder if we can extrapolate his theory to the world of music.  That is to say that the author, now the composer and in some cases the singer, has no influence over his text or “musical production” after it has reached its audience.  Therefore the role of the listener is to open up the multiple meanings of this song (I am aware of plagiarism and copyright laws).  It also true that Barthes asserts that giving an author to a text is closing the writing, that is to say, closing the meaning.

However, in the last few years in Spain a very popular flamenco singer, Pitingo, has opened the door to the reinterpretation of flamenco and its possibilities, as have many others who have preceded him, as a way of interacting with other musical genres and cultural manifestations:  seeing flamenco as a component of an intermedial musical network.  He has gone beyond the frontiers of the previous collaborations between flamenco singers and other performers from around the globe by remixing flamenco and soul or flamenco and pop (The Beatles) and experimenting with his live performances, dancing these hybrid songs under a flamenco dance “compass.”  For many years the so called “flamenco purist” supporters defended the need to return to the roots of flamenco in its most pure and original form, completely rejecting any attempt done by an artist who used “flamenco as destination” and not as an origin.  The thought of seeing flamenco as code, as a common ground to intersect, mix, or remix with any other genres was regarded as a degrading or polluting threat.  In the last thirty years a new generation of flamenco singers has emerged who understand flamenco as being “intertextual” as in the case of Jazz (Irvine 4).  Flamenco is composed by over 50 different “palos” (styles) that are classified according to their rhythmic pattern, mode, chord progression, stanzic form, and geographic origin (Wikipedia).  Another important feature of flamenco is called “compás” which is the Spanish word for “metre” and time signature which all flamenco guitar players and singers are able to interpret and give meaning to.  Therefore, the same way that it happens with Jazz, flamenco performers can improvise at any time acknowledging flamenco as a rule-governed code base that is produced with the interaction of the other musicians (Irvine 4).  A flamenco performance is then a semiological artifact as much as it requires shared knowledge of the genre code bases, knowledge of the past performances, styles, and recordings as an encyclopedic network of meanings (Irvine 4).

Pitingo has relied on intermediality and dialogism as a means to generate meaning-making across two auditory sign systems, flamenco and soul, that belong to a endless network, and creating a “node in the musical network” by adapting songs from a different genre into her own personal-flamenco style, opening that way the door to infinite ongoing cultural remix and hybrid interpretations of his adaptations (Irvine 36). For example, his famous appropriation of Paul McCartney’s “Yesterday” seems to be a good proof of a “dialogic a priori” since it originated as a new cultural work that was in a dialogic relationship to a specific past work, in this case The Beatles, contemporaneous works (in the field of modern flamenco music, such as the flamenco music band Ketama), and future works (completely open to new interpretation) (Irvine 15).  It is also true that, for some members of Spanish society, Pitingo´s work can only be understood under the word “plagiarism” since “making the familiar strange” as Jonathan Lethem has stated is seen as a betrayal to the original (63).  Nevertheless, I believe that Pitingo has made us aware of a “constitutive ground for ongoing cultural hybridity, remix and appropriation, the logic of the rule of rewritability” (Irvine 36).

Works Cited

Barthes, Roland. “The Death of the Author” Communication, Culture, and Technology

            Department, Georgetown U, Sept. 2013. Web. 23 September 2013.

Irvine, Martin. “Jazz and the Abstract Truth: Dialogism and Network Semiotics.”

Communication, Culture, and Technology Department, Georgetown U, Sept. 2013. Web. 23

September 2013.

Lethem, Jonathan. “The Ecstasy of Influence,” Harpers Magazine, Feb. 2007.

Pitingo Official Website. <>

Wikipedia Contributors. “Flamenco” Wikipedia. The Free Encyclopedia. Web. 23

September 2013.





A Study of Intertextuality Within Michel Gondry’s Be Kind Rewind

By: Arianna Drumond

Intertextuality, as defined by Julia Kristeva, dictates that: “every text is from the outset under the jurisdiction of other discourses which impose a universe on it (Chandler 1994).” Michel Gondry’s Be Kind Rewind exemplifies this postmodern notion of intertextuality, largely in the form of pastiche, to touch on poignant and often humorous themes of art, nostalgia, and collective memory.


The film is set in the small town of Passaic, New Jersey; once a thriving cultural hub—Gondry appropriates the life and history of Jazz musician Fats Waller, actually a Harlem native—now a dilapidated town suffering through the early stages of unwanted gentrification.  The Film’s heroes Jerry and Mike (played by Jack Black and Mos Def) are forced to film modified versions of Hollywood blockbusters when a magnetized Jerry accidentally erases the inventory of the town’s only remaining video rental store. The pair cobble together drastically altered versions of hits such as The Lion King, Driving Miss Daisy, and 2001: A Space Odyssey which become very popular within the Passaic community. In order to explain away the odd camera work, the stranger costumes, and the shortened length of each film, Jerry explains that they are produced in Sweden and therefore have been “Sweded,” a process that is both expensive and time consuming.


Though filmed as a comedy, Be Kind Rewind is a serious examination of the importance of history and collective memory. “Sweded” films are representative of society’s attachment to and collective interpretation of narrative. They draw upon the work of famous (and wealthy) storytellers and reinterpret the main themes in a way that is accessible to the community as a whole. These striped-down re-makes still honor the intent of the original works, but, due to their simplicity, are more appropriate for the Passaic community which exists in the shadows of Manhattan much in the way a “Sweded” film might exist in the shadows of Hollywood.

A  “Sweded” film also serves to empower the amateur; a big budget, and production staff are unnecessary and excessive. Rather, the individual is now empowered and can draw upon and reference iconic works and create their own distinct and relevant interpretation. They can be, as Gondry argues “stockholders of their own happiness (World Socialist Web site).” This concept of course, can be seen throughout modern remix culture in the form of memetics. As an original idea is passed along, it is given new life, and occasionally new meaning, with each new interpretation. While the original work remains untouched, new versions remain in circulation and serve as the foundation for a community of “ordinary” individuals who have invested their own creativity in the production of an alternative narrative.

Gondry capitalizes on this idea of memetics by created a “Sweded” version of the original trailer for Be Kind Rewind. He even encourages viewers to create their own “Sweded” takes on Hollywood hits and allows them to be posted to the Be kind Rewind Youtube page.  Gondry works to breakdown the idea that there is only a passive relationship between a viewer and a piece of art. Rather, as is argued in the study of intertextuality, there is room for an active and dynamic relationship between creator, work, and audience.

“Sweded” Be Kind Rewind Trailer

Official Trailer: Be Kind Rewind


Works Cited:

Chandler, Daniel (1994): Semiotics for Beginners. [Sept. 23, 2013]

Be Kind Rewind. Directed by Michel Gondry. 2008. Los Angeles CA: New Line Cinema

Laurier, Joanne. “Be Kind Rewind: Fast Forward to Michel Gondry’s Utopia,” World Socialist Web site. March 12, 2008 [accessed Sept. 23, 2013]  

Drowning Girl: Examining Intertextuality in Roy Lichtenstein’s Artwork

by Abby Bisbee

This week’s readings addressing dialogism, intertextuality and appropriation provided the platform for my understanding of how texts are inter-related – everything from the advertising I see in my magazines, to the novels that I read for a seminar, to the artwork that I pass by everyday in the museum that I work for. As I was trying a grasp on the larger concepts that were proposed this week, I found that I was best able to comprehend these texts through the work of a Pop-Artist Roy Lichtenstein.


Roy Lichtenstein, a world-famous pop artist from the 1960s, created paintings that were heavily influenced by popular culture – both contemporary and historical. Lichtenstein’s work draws upon the “popular advertising and the comic book style” of the 1950s and early 1960s. The best example of intertextuality within his body of work is his painting Drowning Girl (1963). Drowning Girl depicts a crying woman who appears to be in the process of being swallowed by turbulent waves. Despite her immanent death, her focus is solely on her sorrow. In the top left corner, Lichtenstein harkens to the contemporary comic panel with a text bubble that states: “I DON’T CARE/I’D RATHER SINK THAN CALL BRAD FOR HELP!”



Drowning Girl, Roy Lichtenstein. !963.

Julia Kristeva defines intertextuality in terms of horizontal and vertical axes, the latter referring to the relationship that a text has with other pre-existing texts (Kristeva). Examining Drowning Girl in terms of this vertical axis, we can see that Lichtenstein is both accepting popular culture and negating pre-existing artistic expectations that have their foundations in classical painting. Lichtenstein does this by using a painting technique called Ben-Day dots to create the illusion that the image is “mechanically reproduced” (Wikipedia). Understanding this painting as text, we can also see how it is related to the “already-written” (Barthes). Drowning Girl is heavily influenced by a comic panel from 1962 from DC Comics, however, the most interesting artistic reference I believe that Lichtenstein makes in his painting is a reference to nineteenth century Japanese print making (Wikipedia). If one examines the waves that encompass the woman in Drowning Girl and compares them to the extremely well known print by Hokusai The Great Wave of Kanagawa, one will notice striking resemblances in between the two.



The Great Wave off Kanagawa, Hokusai. 1831-33.


This painting has many layers of complexity, but I believe in terms of what we are discussing there are three points that need to be addressed. First, Lichtenstein was famous in the 1960s for heading the “new” Pop Art movement however many criticized him for not creating anything original and drawing solely from pre-existing artwork. As to the latter critique, we can now (after this week’s readings) look at all art and understand that nothing is truly “original” and thus Lichtenstein’s art can be seen as progressive rather than regressive. Secondly, the question arises asking as to why the artist chose to pull from comic and print art. Is the artist making a comment on the increasing commercialization of 1960s America? Is he remarking on contemporary critiques of his artwork by connecting his “unoriginal” work of art to probably the single most circulated Japanese print in the United States? There are most likely several other explanations as to why Lichtenstein chose both his subject and his style of painting when creating Drowning Girl, however I believe that the questions referenced above were at least relatively influential in his artistic process. As Chandler notes in his “Semiotics for Beginners” when texts such as this one “allude directly to each other…[it]…it is a particularly self-conscious form of intertextuality: it credits its audience with the necessary experience to make sense of such allusions.” Third, as Lichtenstein’s piece is a painting that draws upon the influence of both narrative and print, Drowning Girl reflects intertextuality by crossing the “boundaries between formal frames” (Chandler).


This week’s readings aided me in my understanding of how all texts of all mediums of our culture are constantly taking pre-existing forms and simply re-molding them into something with a slightly different shape. The author, as Barthes strongly emphasizes, is not a creator but rather a mediator of all texts that have come before him and he collaborates with both contemporary society and historical texts to create the next artistic product.

Wikipedia contributors. “Drowning Girl.” Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia. Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia, 5 Aug. 2013. Web. 23 Sep. 2013.

Wikipedia contributors. “Roy Lichtenstein.” Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia. Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia, 23 Sep. 2013. Web. 23 Sep. 2013.

Barthes, Roland. Trans. Richard Howard. “Death of the Author.”

Chandler, Daniel. “Semiotics for Beginners.” . N.p., 01 Mar 2013. Web. 23 Sep 2013. <>.

Julia Kristeva, excerpt from “Word, Dialogue, and Novel.” From Toril Moi, ed., The Kristeva Reader [New York: Columbia University Press, 1986]).


A painting in novel and movie: Girl with Pearl Earring

One of the primary features of postmodernism in aesthetic production including artworks, films, music, and, literature is the use of intertextuality.  There are numerous great examples of intertextuality; Peter Webber’s film (2003) and Tracy Chevalier’s novel (1999) of the same name, Girl with a Pearl Earring, would be definitely some of them.  The film and novel both give fictional accounts of the girl depicted in a 17th –century painting of the same title by Dutch painter Johannes Vermeer; more exactly, as known well, the novel came out first; then the film was made based on it.  The painting features a mysterious girl with a turban and a pearl earring; but her identity has not yet been determined (Wikipedia).  Thus, the plot of both Webber’s film and Chevalier’s novel is all about Chevalier’s own interpretation of the famous mysterious painting.

The plot takes place in the Netherlands in the 17th century.  The main character, a young girl named Griet, comes to the city of Delft to serve the Vermeer family. After a critical moment in her first encounter with Vermeer, he begins to look at her as the only person in the house who can understand his art. He sees her as someone who has a somewhat artistic soul and uses her as a model for his painting.  He develops a complex emotional relationship with her that causes his wife to feel jealous (Wikipedia).

According to Kristeva and many other theorists, “intertextuality refers to far more than the ‘influences’ of writers on each other” (Chandler, 2013); this is well evident in the relationship among the painting, film, and novel of the same name, Girl with a Pearl Earring.  First of all, it is obvious that in her novel, Chevalier does not merely refer to Vermeer’s painting but imparts an entirely new meaning to it with her own subjective perspective and imagination.  Likewise, Webber’s film is also not a mere media representation of the painting and novel.  The quiet and slow scenes of the film which are just as captivating as the canvas and the reversed method of seeing the art-making process which allows the audience to become already familiar with the painting before it is finished gives a special tone to the movie. The film successfully draws the audience into the atmosphere of the period and gives them a different perspective of that piece of art: it leads the audience to focus on not only the art itself and the romance behind it but also the social norms, economic situations, people’s lifestyles, and personal fears and struggles in a growing process of one young girl in the 17th century Netherland. In this sense, as Chevalier’s novel does, it also adds a new meaning to the painting particularly within the audience by creating and manipulating their appreciation and impression of the painting.  More importantly, it helps the 17th century painting become popularized” among the contemporary mass.  It has, in fact, encouraged the audience to read Chevalier’s novel, put the image reproduction poster of the painting on their walls, or even travel to The Hague, where the painting is held in (Brussat).  Whatever their choice is, it would always take them back to the painting; this can be seen as blurring the line between high and popular culture.

Johannes_Vermeer_(1632-1675)_-_The_Girl_With_The_Pearl_Earring_(1665)               94-scarlett-johansson-girl-with-a-pearl-earring-vermeer

Work Cited

1. Chandler, Daniel. “Semiotics for Beginners”. Mar. 1, 2013.

2. “Girl with a Pearl Earring”. Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia. Wikimedia Foundation, Inc <>