TRANS Internet-Zeitschrift für Kulturwissenschaften 17. Nr. Mai 2010

Sektion 3.5. 3.5. Re-written Literatures: Transforming Texts, Transforming Cultures
Sektionsleiter | Section Chair: Günseli Sönmez İşçi (Ege University, İzmir, Turkey)

Dokumentation | Documentation | Documentation

Section report 3.5.

Re-written Literatures Transforming Texts, Transforming Cultures

Günseli Sönmez İşçi (Ege University, İzmir, Turkey) [BIO]



This panel was designed to raise issues concerning the creative and critical activities in the domain of re-writing. The panel started by an introduction during which the major implications of re-writing were discussed providing a platform for the presentations that followed. The core of the argument that emerged during the introduction, presentations, and the discussions was as follows.

The concept of re-writing evokes a range of theoretical practices, the so-called inter-textual critical approach, for example, which has assumed that all texts are, a priori, inter-textual.  Bakhtin’s proposition regarding the dialogic disposition of texts where multiple voices enter into discourse between one another provided a rationale for this theoretical path, but it was Roland Barthes who affirmed, in his article “The Death of the Author” (1968), that writing is a sort of re-writing. Announcing the death of the author and the birth of the reader, this article designated the threshold which Barthes crossed over to the world of post-structuralism in critical and cultural theory; for he declared that the text was to be considered not as “a line of words releasing a single ‘theological’ meaning (the ‘message’ of the Author-God)” but as “a multi-dimensional space in which a variety of writings, none of them original, blend and clash” (Barthes 1968: 142).

Hence, Roland Barthes’s theory of the text as “a tissue of quotations drawn from the innumerable centres of culture” (   ) provided the point of departure for the issues taken up in this panel. In the papers presented, re-writing was considered as a poetic and political project aiming to explore and expose the blind spots pertaining to colonial or patriarchal discourses in canonical texts. Most of the presenters, therefore, focussed attention on the re-written literary texts that have derived their theoretical insight from post-structuralist, post-colonial or feminist theories. Among the examples that were scrutinized in terms of the interplay between the texts were Margaret Atwood’s The Penelopiad, a re-write of Homer’s The Odyssey, J. M. Coetzee’s Foe, a re-write of Daniel Defoe’s Robinson Crusoe, Ann-Marie Macdonald’s Goodnight Desdemona (Good Morning Juliet), a re-casting of Shakespeare’s Othello and Romeo and Juliet, Arnold Wesker’s The Merchant, a re-write of Shakespeare’s The Merchant of Venice.   

Some texts lend themselves more favourably to re-writing and inter-textual criticism, since they embody a number of inter-texts with various and varied sources. Shakespeare’s canon is one of them, Oscar Wilde’s another. It should not be surprising then, that Shakespearean or Wildean canon have become a source of inspiration for writers like Tom Stoppard for re-writing, as for example, his Rosencrantz and Guilderstern Are Dead which is a re-write of Shakespeare’s Hamlet,  and his Travesties which is a re-writing of Oscar Wilde’s The Importance of Being Earnest. The presentation on Tom Stoppard’s Travesties focused on multiple dimensions of Stoppard’s artistic consciousness that foster several associations inviting the reader to derive meanings through inter-textuality; and during the discussion that followed the participants directed attention towards the re-writing of re-writing, The Importance of Being Earnest, being a re-writing of not only popular Victorian farces of 1890s, as The Foundling by Lestoq and Robson, but a re-write of the conventions of well-made melodramas of eighteenth century, such as Congreve’s The Way of the World.

The panel concluded by a general discussion on the dialogic relationship between literary texts that had been around since Odyssey or Canterbury Tales, and on the role of re-written literatures in offering textual and cultural exchange, and in transforming the norms of society at large. Finally, the presentations and the discussions have demonstrated that in reading and interpreting the texts we re-write them.  

3.5. Re-written Literatures: Transforming Texts, Transforming Cultures

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TRANS   Inhalt | Table of Contents | Contenu  17 Nr.

For quotation purposes:
Günseli Sönmez İşçi: Sektion report 3.5. Re-written Literatures Transforming Texts, Transforming Cultures - In: TRANS. Internet-Zeitschrift für Kulturwissenschaften. No. 17/2008. WWW:

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