Intertextuality and the "Rape" of Miranda: The Tempest and Eastwords

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Ramapo College of New Jersey
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James E. Portar states, "not infrequently books speak of books. Not infrequently, and perhaps ever always, texts refer to other texts and in fact rely on them for their meaning." In my paper, I wish to explore intertextuality—how writers draw ceaselessly from the past, highlighting the transience and fragility in their own narrative, and how the mere rendering in two stories of analogous setting, characters, and plot, can change meanings inexorably. Specifically, I will analyze Shakespeare's "The Tempest" alongside its 21st century counterpart "Eastwords" by Kalyan Ray. In both texts, there are threads of similarity; in both, Prospero accuses Caliban of raping of his daughter; in both Prospero is white and Caliban is figured as "other"; in both Prospero is the oppressor, though in the first his actions are defended and in the latter they are denounced. Most importantly, both stories come from conflicting viewpoints—a 17th century perspective and a post-colonial perspective—showing the reader the flaws in these works and all works. Tales are told through appropriation: an author uses his or her cultural norms to mold meaning. For this reason I will use intertextuality to critique and analyze both texts. Can there be truth in writing, if words stem from a "single network" or "web of meaning"? Can there be originality? And what does it mean if authors of the present steal and change past author's tales? Using methods from intertextual, postcolonial and deconstructionist approaches to literature, I will explore these questions and more.