The Hours - Film Analysis

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The Suicide of the Author and his Reincarnation in the Reader: Intertextuality in The Hours by Michael Cunningham

Andrea Wild

In his novel The Hours, Michael Cunningham weaves a dazzling fabric of intertextual references to Virginia Woolf's works as well as to her biography. In this essay, I shall partly yield to the academic itch to tease out the manifold and sophisticated allusions to the numerous intertexts. My aim, however, is not to point out every single reference to Woolf and her works--such an endeavour of source-hunting would fail alone because of the sheer abundance of intertextual references--and to strip The Hours down until its threads lie bare in front of me, but to take the theories of influence (as voiced, for example, by Bloom) and their concept of a unidirectional relationship between an anterior text and a posterior text as a point of departure to investigate how Cunningham manipulates and transforms the anterior texts and, accordingly, establishes a two-way relationship between himself and Woolf.

The critical term of intertextuality was coined in 1966 by Julia Kristeva, who -- following Mikhail Bakhtin -- writes in her ground-breaking essay "Word, Dialogue, and Novel" [1] : "[E]ach word (text) is an intersection of word [sic] (texts) where at least one other word (text) can be read . . . . any text is constructed as a mosaic of quotations; any text is the absorption and transformation of another" (66). However, as Kristeva in a later interview explains, the dynamics of intertextuality does not only take place between author and text but also between text and reader: "If we are readers of intertextuality, we must be capable of the same putting-into-process of our identities, capable of identifying with the different types of texts, voices, semantic, syntactic, and phonic system at play in a...