(redirected from subtexts)
Also found in: Dictionary.
Related to subtexts: subtextual, context


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 ?
The subtexts Meyer considers for Anna Karenina are therefore Rousseau's Emile et Sophie; Alexander Dumas fils' Man-Woman, Response to Monsieur Henri d'Ideville, and Claude's Wife; Flaubert's Madame Bovary; two of Zola's early novels: Therese Raquin and Madeleine Ferat; and, not surprisingly, considering Tolstoy's epigraph to the novel, the Gospels.
Gates, impatient with or unaware of the Gurdjieffian subtexts, dismisses Schuyler as a "literary schizophrenic .
Edward Said teaches by taking the reader on a journey through the subtexts of the novels of Austen, Dickens, Thackeray, Conrad, and hosts of others, so that in the future we will read all prose with greater skepticism.
Regardless of their strategy, all of the Pinter critics considered find themselves--in one way or another--engaged in discovering subtexts to the plays.
of Economics and Business Administration, Austria) explores organizational texts in terms of their gendered subtexts, aiming to describe the notions and patterns by which males and females are (re)produced within organizational texts and how this gender subtext influences and changes organizational discourse and contributes to the development of a new field or space for organization research.
Yet as much as manner, artifice and gesture become subtexts, if not themes, the works are also informed by a sensitivity born of observation.
And despite the queasy sexual subtexts Hanssen shared with his best pal Jack (David Straithairn) and a stripper (Hilit Pace, whose engaging turn suggests more about her character than the script ever bothers to), nothing in the film begins to explain what accounts for their tricky, ultimately disquieting fates.
On display from 7 July to 12 September 1999, these prints were chosen with a view to explaining the varied music- and dance-related subtexts of sixteenth-century art in the general environs of the Netherlands.
After a compelling opening in which he shows how the Federalist-Republican debates depended on racial subtexts of savagery and slavery, Gardner weds his persuasive central contention to a series of well-presented contexts that inform the close readings of major texts.
Not only is she sensitive to its rhythmic and melodic subtexts, but she is also willing to work against its sometimes bombastic effects.
The depressing subtexts are bound to overwhelm the cheery hut phony fame-and-fortune promise sooner or later.
With its twinned subtexts of sightseeing and voyeurism, Leiderstam's work asks why nature often appeals to us most when framed, and examines how aesthetic gestures within the landscape transform sites into situations.