subtext

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Related to subtexts: subtextual, context

subtext

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

Subtext

 

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.

V. A. KALASHNIKOV

References in periodicals archive ?
Meyer knows that these novels also draw importantly from English and German sources, but for the purposes of this book, she limits herself to French subtexts. Given the venue of this review, I will limit my comments to her chapter about Anna Karenina.
To demonstrate his thesis, Said explores the subtexts of great Nineteenth Century English, French, and American literature, taking the reader on a journey between the lines of Jane Austen, Charles Dickens, Rudyard Kipling, Joseph Conrad, Andre Gide, and a host of other writers whose work students either enjoyed or fought their way through in high school and college.
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.
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.
Equating Rudolph Fisher's short stories and detective novel with Gurdjieff's "teaching stories," Woodson moves from decoding the esoteric subtexts to broader claims for the movement in Harlem: "Although it is clear that the narrative level of The Walls of Jericho presented a case against race and color discrimination, without Fisher's ciphered message, the reader would remain unaware of the African-American Gurdjieffians who were organizing to change the structure of American culture." The Conjure-Man Dies, generically and esoterically, presents demanding self-referential problems for the writer and the reader of such hermeneutic texts.
Though he has made artwork with gay subtexts. Seator is more concerned with the universal ways we project ideas into physical space.
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.
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It is Nicolopulos's assumption that one can apprehend the meanings of "Iberian Imperial Age" poets and "the labyrinth of subtexts and their uses" only by recourse to a systematic analysis based on the theories of imitation as formulated by writers steeped in the tradition of imitatio" (4).