You are here

14.1.Nicholson

In his review of “Intertextuality and Classical Studies” (MD 1997), Fowler rightly stresses that intertextuality is a theory of the production of meaning in general, not just of the relations between literary texts. Insisting that much of the intertextualist work done in Classics has emphasized the politics of such relations, he closes by calling for a greater interchange between intertextualists and cultural critics. Yet, as Hinds (“Allusion and Interpretability,” MD 1997) and Fowler concede, intertextual work in Classics still mostly proceeds under the sign of allusion, and this presents serious challenges to any such interchange. First, much the same criteria are used to judge whether two texts are related; the relationship needs to be explicitly marked by verbal resemblance (and even metatextual cues), so that our attention is focused on the (often lofty) relations that are explicitly claimed, and not the relations with (often low) texts that are denied. Second, the model of allusion imports a difference in time; intertextualists study relations between earlier and later texts, rather than a synchronic moment. To figure intertextual relations in terms of allusion is to occlude the kinds of relation that cultural studies focus on.

This paper will take as a case study the relationship between Pindar’s Olympian 10, for the Olympic victory of a West Locrian youth in 476, and the ‘Hero of Temesa’ legend that grew up around Locri’s most famous boxer of that era, Euthymus, also an Olympic victor in 476. The legend dates to around this period (Currie, “Euthymos,” JHS 2002), but is a ‘low’ text, lacking authorship, a defined form or a fixed date. When considered together these two texts illuminate a code against which each can be interpreted (relation to “Hellas,” money, cult, Syracuse), but neither makes explicit reference to the other, so that their relation is formed by their shared ideological contest.

There is thus no question of an allusion here, but there is an intertextual relationship. This intertextuality should be understood in Bakhtinian terms: the texts compete over the same ground, rewrite elements of the other’s visions, and can only be properly understood within this combative relationship (Bakhtin, Dialogic Imagination, 1981). Neither text is strictly necessary to the intelligibility of the other – the larger code is the key, not the individual text – and thus temporal priority is not at issue either.

One of the questions this panel has posed is what must happen to intertextual criticism if it is to be extended to a broader range of media; one answer, for low media such as anecdotes, is that intertextualities must cease to be framed by the same forms as allusion and returned to their roots in Bakhtinian social linguistics.

© 2020, Society for Classical Studies Privacy Policy