Intertextuality refers to the relationships between texts and can take many forms, both overt and covert. In Mrs. Dalloway, Woolf employs overt intertextuality to create meaning, reinforce the text’s themes and ultimately to place her work within a cultural and literary context. In addition, covert forms of intertextuality are present in the form of narrative structure, parody and indirect allusion to other works. The intertextuality in Mrs Dalloway can further be viewed as a covert form of metafiction, because Woolf’s allusions to other fictional works emphasise the fictional nature of her own text, causing the reader to question the purpose of their reading and the meaning that can be derived from it. McEwan’s Atonement utilises the same forms of intertextuality, alongside an overt metafiction that is central to the novel’s plot, and thus raises the same questions. The progression from intertextuality in Woolf’s modernist work to the postmodern technique of self-referential metafiction in McEwan’s novel begs both readers and writers to question the very nature of fiction, the place of the novel in our culture, and the pleasure, meaning and purpose that can be derived from it.
Angela Carter’s The Bloody Chamber: And Other Storiesis a postmodern work, in which the various stories revise existing fairy tales, using this intertextuality as a mechanism for revealing, parodying and challenging the cultural norms which are embedded in the original texts. In a similar vein, Ian McEwan’s novel Atonementreflects upon the very nature of both reading and writing, while also delivering social commentary. The theme of fear is used in both of these texts as a means of highlighting social inequality. Fear, or the lack thereof effects an emotional response in the reader while also raising questions about the very nature of our reading and writing practice, and how it relates to society at large.