What is Transtextuality? Understanding The Meaning of the Words We Read


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Transtextuality concepts, from metatextuality to hypotextuality, are confusing to some. Image by Decoded Science


Metatextuality is the relation between one text and another, whether the commented text is clearly and obviously cited or referenced, or mentioned, or as Stam says – only silently evoked or referred to. In this case, Genette proposes that a text can be linked to another without it being named or cited, but through the use of an implied understandable reference.


Architextuality refers to the text being positioned directly or indirectly into a generic category due to its title, even before the reader has received or read the work. In other words, the title of a piece of work or the absence of a particular word in a title may produce expectations about texts that may alter or influence the reader’s expectations.


Hypertextuality refers to the relationship between two texts: The hypertext, and another text which Genette refers to as the hypotext. The hypertext transforms, modifies, elaborates, or extends the hypotext – but does not keep to the style “of the commentary” of the original text.

Hypertextuality highlights all the ways one text can change another. Genette says that all texts are basically hypertextual, but sometimes it is difficult to recognise the existence of a hypotext – therefore hypertextual reading cannot take place.

Transtextuality: Changing The Meaning of Texts

Although through his proposal of transtextuality Genette provides a more comprehensive and defined list of the types of intertextuality that a reader may come across, he admits that the five types are not exclusive and cannot be fully separated from each other, since, paradoxically due to their reciprocal relationship, they inevitable overlap.

So, next time you pick up a text, even before you read it, see if you have formed preconceived notions from clues beyond the text – or take a few moments while reading to release yourself from the page and see if in the unique assembly of known codes you are able to recognize ‘echoes’ of any other texts that help in its interpretation. If so, you’re experiencing transtextuality.


Barthes, R. Theory of the Text, in Untying the Text. 31-47, R. Young (ed.). (1981). London: Routledge.

Genette, G. Palimpsests: Literature in the Second Degree. Channa Newman and Claude Doubinsky (trans.) (1997a). Lincoln, NB: University of Nebraska Press.

Stam, R.  et al. New Vocabularies in Film Semiotics: Structuralism, Post-structuralism and Beyond. (1992). Routledge, London.

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