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Intertextuality and Literary Evolution

As a Classicist, I often find myself often reading texts for the holy grail of Classical studies: intertextuality. In its most simplistic terms, intertextuality is the presence in one text (the target text) of another text (the source text). The most obvious intertextual moments are allusions—direct (if at times obscure) references to another piece of literature. For example, Dante’s Inferno has as a primary character Virgil, the Augustan-era author of the Aeneid. Similarly, as Dante and Virgil descend through the circles of Hell, they encounter various characters from ancient literature, many of which are represented in Book 4 of the Aeneid, in which Aeneas visits the Underworld—for example, Cerberus, the three-headed dog and Medusa, the snaky-haired gorgon, just to name a few. But intertextuality can also be far less explicit. In the same work, one might find subtle resonances in Dante of other hell-bound travelers, like Aeneas or Odysseus. For a Classicist, these intertextual moments are thrilling. They represent an author’s engagement with the Classical tradition, at once affirming that the influence of ancient literature is not limited to ancient writers and also providing new and compelling ways of reading old and oft-analyzed texts. But we Classicists are just one sect of an intertextuality studies cache consisting of members from every literary discipline. Intertextuality’s implications, however, are also generative to a person attempting to understand how stories in general evolve.

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Why Teleology?

Submitted by: Katharine Baratz 

In the summer of 1925, William Jennings Bryan and Clarence Darrow went head-to-head over high school teacher John Scopes’s controversial decision to teach evolution in his Tennessee classroom. According to the Butler Act of 1926, it was at that time illegal to teach, in any Tennessee classroom, “any theory that denies the story of the Divine Creation of man as taught in the Bible, and to teach instead that man has descended from a lower order of animals,” [1]. At the conclusion of what became one of the most famous trials in the 20th century, Scopes was found guilty after a mere nine-minute jury deliberation and ordered to pay a fine of 100 dollars.

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