UBC Theses and Dissertations
The work of art in an age of media saturation : intertextuality and the films of Steven Soderbergh Wilson, Brenda
In the late 1960s, the term "intertextuality" emerged in France in the work of Bulgarian theorist Julia Kristeva. As it was originally conceived, intertextuality was applied primarily to considerations of compare and contrast among texts. Basically, intertextuality pertains to the recognition of the presence of one text in another text. Gradually, as theories of intertextuality developed, the term was expanded to include various forms of cultural production. Text does not only apply to the literary text. All objects of cultural production, particularly electronic arts such as film, can be considered texts. And in more recent films that tend towards postmodern aesthetics, considerations of their intertextuality becomes inevitable. This study will focus on intertextuality as it pertains to the analyses of several films directed by Steven Soderbergh. I will begin by presenting a summary of aspects of intertextuality that pertain to the study of film, particularly theories developed first by Julia Kristeva, and subsequently taken up by theorists such as Roland Barthes and Gerard Genette. This will be followed by a brief introduction to the work of Soderbergh and the recurring features of his oeuvre that facilitate recognition of his auteur status. The argumentation and subsequent conclusions of this thesis will endeavor to demonstrate three points: i) Although intertextuality was originally intended to apply to the study of literature, it is an important term for the study of film. In fact, all contemporary films are intertextual. The work of Steven Soderbergh provides a diverse range of films that facilitate an examination of the appropriateness of using intertextuality as a theoretical framework for the study of cinema. Most contemporary auteurs employ aspects of a postmodern style of filmmaking. One manifestation of postmodernism is the loss of originality, and the difficulty of creating entirely new works of art. But acknowledging the intertextuality of a film need not diminish the value of that film. Recognizing intertextuality as an inevitability should not detract from the auteur status of a given director. Discerning the various sources of Soderbergh's films is a recognition of both his auteur status and his role as less an original author and more an engineer of new film texts based on other artistic and cultural texts evolving from our contemporary, media saturated culture.
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