Intertextuality in the Hours

Topics: Mrs Dalloway, Virginia Woolf, Suicide Pages: 11 (4432 words) Published: July 29, 2008

Intertextuality In The Hours

Intertextuality is a term first introduced by French semiotician Julia Kristeva in the late sixties. She says that a literary work is not simply the product of a single author, but of its relationship to other texts and to the strucutures of language itself. "Any text," she argues, "is constructed of a mosaic of quotations; any text is the absorption and transformation of another." (, Kristeva: Word, Dialogue, and Novel, 1966). The Hours is a piece of art which breaks the barriers between reality and fiction, between the world of books and the world of film and between the world of reader and the book he is reading and it makes parallels between these worlds. The Hours is a movie made from a screenplay that was based on a book that was also based on another book. And now you are reading a work based on subjective decoding of these works. Life itself consists of series of the texts, one on top of the other. Virginia Woolf wrote “Mrs. Dalloway,” a novel about a woman’s ordinary day, from which the reader can extract essential elements of life of her and human as well. Michael Cunningham, years later, reads that book, and writes another one about three seemingly normal days of three women. And then David Hare and Stephen Daldry write and direct a movie based on Cunningham’s book that adds even more layers to the whole story. The Hours was Woolf's working title for Mrs Dalloway. The book and the film follow one day in the life of three women from different decades of the twentieth century. As the stories unfold, we discover that they are paralleled and connected to each other in several ways. In the novel The Hours Woolf is one of three central characters. The writer becomes a character of another writer. The other two are fictional characters - Laura Brown, a housewife in a post-war California in 1949, and Clarissa Vaughan, a book editor living in Manhattan at the end of the twentieth century. Characters are connected by the novel written by the famous modernist writer Virginia Woolf, Mrs Dalloway. Woolf stands for the author, Laura for the reader, Clarissa for the character. Another connection between the three women is the fact that they all are trying to make sense of the life of sadness and depression they find themselves living. They are frustrated of having little control over their life. They do not fit the societies in which they live. They long for something else. They also share a lesbian inclination. They have to deal with similar problems- memories, making a choice, regreting them, emptiness, lost possibilities, sexual ambiquity, contradiction between external and inner life, independence, sense of failure, inadequacy, time, ageing, sickness, suicide, death. The novel consists of three stories. Chapters have their headings after their characters- Mrs Woolf, Mrs Brown and Mrs Dalloway. The first story of the novel The Hours focuses upon the biography of Virginia Woolf. Cunningham draws from Woolf’s letters and excerpts from her diary and thus combines a real material with fiction. The story opens with a prologue in which she commits suicide. It happened in 1941 when the World War II intervened in her life. Then it turns to a fictional lovely summer day in 1923 as she composes the first sentence of the novel that will become Mrs Dalloway. This first sentence resounds in the stories of characters. We can feel the pressure she is under. She is living in the countryside, Richmond, wracked with depression and suffers of an isolation from the rush of London reccomended her by doctors as a therapy. She seems to be misunderstood by people around her: the servants, her sister contented with her domestic life and her husband Leonard who desperately wants to help his wife but in same way he dictates...
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