(or: the Macedonian woman writer, a daughter of many fathers and few mothers)
As early as 1922, T.S. Eliot in his well-known essay “Tradition and the Individual Talent” states the great truth about the nature and place of each poet (and artist in a broader sense): no poet, no artist has a complete meaning in himself. In order to value a poet (writer), he has to find his place in the established history and system of his predecessors, by contrast and comparison with them. However, according to Eliot, the act of establishing a new order, the insertion of the writer in his (or her) tradition is a purposeful act, and the author can “disturb” the system of his literary tradition only if he is aware of it.
The idea of the author who returns to his tradition and reconstructs it to find his own place in it is further developed by Mikhail Bakhtin; focusing on Dostoevsky’s work, he says that every word strives to an answer, without being able to avoid the essential influence of the answer it anticipates. Thus, says Bakhtin, every word is dialogical in its nature, and therefore it has to be analyzed as a part of a dialogue. Furthering on Bakhtin’s thesis, the French-Bulgarian theorist Julia Kristeva in her work “Séméiôtiké: recherches pour une sémanalyse” (1969) introduced what is now a trendy term – intertextuality, explaining it theoretically, but also practically demonstrating it in her reading of Bakhtin. Inserting text at every place Bakhtin uses word, she says that “every word (text) is a crossword of words (texts).”
Although the term intertextuality is a neologism in itself, its meaning is an old, well-known practice – Shakespeare (who is also paid the due tribute by Eliot in his essay mentioned above) is one of the most famous practitioners of intertextuality; his plays (in a quite liberal interpretation) are nothing but original remakes of previously known legends, stories and historical records. Sometimes, intertextuality is considered to be a simple expansion of the old idea of influence; however, it also carries a new element in itself – the conscious returning and using of the previous literary (and other) tradition as opposed to the relatively unconscious nature of influence. Thus, in the work of the writer who consciously (intentionally) uses intertextuality, it carries a double challenge – for himself, as an author, the challenge of creativity (do I have anything new to say about what has been said before me); with the critic, on the other hand, it awakens the spirit of the explorer (can I find all the hidden meanings of the new work which are born in its dialogue with its predecessors).
Going back to Julia Kristeva, I will mention another fact that if often forgotten when she is mentioned solely as a creator (or promoter) of the term intertextuality. Kristeva, along with Hélène Sixous and Luce Irigaray is one of the three most significant feminist theorists; they primarily worked on a criticism of phallocentrism. Dialogue and intertextuality can therefore be seen as (and they often were) methods of a feminist analysis of the literary works, aspiring to answer the question – how does the woman writer (or said in broader way: the woman creator) enter a dialogue (i.e. debates) with her predecessors? Or, said in an Eliot-like fashion, how does the woman writer find her place in the established history and system of her predecessors, when it is known, as Gilbert and Gubar said that the man writer is a son of many fathers, and the woman writer is a daughter of too few mothers?
In our Macedonian context, the situation is even more complex than the simple analysis of the works of our contemporary women writers as opposed to our literary tradition. Here, the question is not only how the women writers re-write and re-read their predecessors, but also what the tradition is to which they rely. In this sense, Katica Kulafkova nowadays speaks about a theory of discontinuity in the Macedonian literature, according to which there are the dark ages of the Macedonian literature behind us (monasteries, church literature, folk (oral) literature), which do not fit the western currents, and therefore the dilemma (with us and with others) if they [the church literature and the folk works] are our true literary tradition.
Because of these dilemmas about the Macedonian literary tradition or because of some cosmopolitan urges, most of our contemporary women prose writers establish (intertextual) relations between their works and the works (authors) of the world literature. Jadranka Vladova, for example, starts her first collection of short stories with an intimate dedication – She loves Aloysius Bertrand forever, thus revealing not only her passion to fantasy, but also her close, almost love relation felt for her beloved writer. Further on in the short story “Prince Myshkin from Bitpazar” she even embodies her favorite character of Dostoevsky’s in her everyday life. The intimate in the relation with Dostoevsky (as one of the big predecessors) is also manifested with Kica Kolbe, who, as a subject in her novel “The Snow in Casablanca” tells in which character of the Karamazov brothers she used to be in love. Both Vladova and Kolbe, via references, mentioning and citing their predecessors, their names, works and characters from those works (as intertextual elements where the emotional attachment with them is predominant) reveal themselves as passionate readers above all. The emotions of the women writers to their predecessors undoubtedly imply the influence (or influences) that they have had. However, on the other hand, their awareness about these influences, and event about their imminence, gives their works a more modern, more complex intertextual dimension.
While intertextuality with Vladova and Kolbe is manifested at times, when the references sparkle from their works, Gordana Mihailova Bošnakoska has a complete remake of the novel “Women in Love” by D.H. Lawrence in her short story “Friends”. Although it initially seems that the story is completely copied, starting from the universal nature of the theme about the destructive vs. productive/creative love, up to the completely parallel characters, Bošnakoska clearly marks her specific reading of Lawrence. Unlike his story telling in third person singular, she enters the story directly, as one of the characters (i.e. she becomes the subject of the story). The characters, who are copies of their predecessors, by the means of intertextual hints, “recognize” each other, and the events, compressed from the hundreds of pages of a novel to the several pages of a short story, become surrealistically accelerated. Wrapped in such an arrangement, Bošnakoska’s short story has completely different sound than Lawrence’s prose.