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1. an underlying theme in a piece of writing
2. a message which is not stated directly but can be inferred



the latent, covert, indirectly revealed sense of an utterance, literary narrative, or line in a play or the second level of a stage role. Subtext is based on a trait of conversational speech according to which the lexical meaning of words and phrases, depending on the situation and the speaker’s intentions and expression, no longer has a relation to the inner content of the speech or may even contradict it.

Subtext, the complex of thoughts and feelings concealed beneath the words of a text, may be revealed by:

(1) Lines that contain allusions and that are often repeated as leitmotifs.

(2) Such qualities of the sound of speech as intonation and pauses that attest to an undercurrent in the action. For example, in Chekhov’s The Three Sisters, Masha’s question about whether Dr. Chebutykin loved her mother is followed by the doctor answering, after a pause, “I no longer remember.”

(3) Emphasized juxtapositions of speech, plot, and staging situations differing in content or sound, such as the combination of an outwardly insignificant conversation between characters with an intense inner argument taking place between them. From time to time this argument surfaces, as in M. Maeterlinck’s play Pelléas and Mélisande and E. Hemingway’s short story “Hills Like White Elephants.”

The concept of subtext was comprehended in the West by Maeterlinck, who called it the “second dialogue” in his book The Treasure of the Humble (1896), and in Russia by Chekhov and the founders of the Moscow Art Theater, K. S. Stanislavsky and V. I. Nemirovich-Danchenko. (See, for example, Nemirovich-Danchenko’s preface to N. Efros’ book The Three Sisters: A. P. Chekhov’s Play as Produced by the Moscow Art Theater, St. Petersburg, 1919.) In the Stanislavsky method, subtext came to express the inner emotional basis of stage speech.


References in periodicals archive ?
Under these circumstances, Bill Louw and Marija Milojkovic's Corpus Stylistics as Contextual Prosodie Theory and Subtext is instructive and worthy of reading, for it offers valuable perspectives for interdisciplinary investigations.
He suspects that the legal texts can also be seen as more coherent when read against the background of its subtext.
The free Subtext app, available on the App Store, includes social networking and enrichment features to transform reading into a social activity and connect books to the web.
But I can attest there's no intention to push that subtext.
Others, though, assert that we are far from a post-racial society, citing the anxieties around racial purity and maintaining a white-dominated social order that are the subtext of a great number of films.
Barack Obama's election sent a powerful signal that millions of Americans are ready to change that subtext.
For example, Meyer asserts that "Janin's The Dead Donkey or the Guillotined Woman is an important (and entirely unexamined) subtext for Crime and Punishment" (94) and that Janin's La Confession is a "hitherto undiscovered, governing subtext for the same novel" (89), although she herself has discussed and examined these works in articles more than a decade ago.
Dave Harris "has just booked LA - watch out hot girls in bikinis" - subtext, Dave got dumped yesterday didn't he?
They've pushed conservative boundaries with their sexual subtext, glamorized crime and graphic violence.
All of that serves to unearth the subtext that gay viewers have sensed in Company since the day it premiered.
From arbitration ("a procedure enabling opponents to scream bloody murder at each other before going to trial and being inhibited by the decorum imposed in court") to yard ("A plot of dirt, grass, flowers, trees, shrubs, weeds and the like which Americans keep in front or back of their house for use as a spouse, child and dog dumping ground, and also for the convenience of the neighbors' cats"), each entry is delicious with irony, subtext, wit, and scorn for the self-absorbed.
Paying careful attention to detail and subtext and drawing support from ancient and modern scholars, Goodman paints us a portrait of a lonely, loveless and surprisingly modern man, set apart from the rest of the world and doomed from his miraculous conception to fulfill a Divine mission he neither understands nor has the power to preempt.