Insights from My Wife on Intertextuality

I walked into the room and said to her, “I’m gonna take a shower.”
She responded, “What you do, do quickly.”

I stopped dead in my tracks, turned, and stared at her for a moment with squinted eyes. “Did you just call me Judas?”

She giggled and said, “Nooo. I just used Jesus’ words to say, ‘I gotta get ready too, so hurry up.'”

Though I immediately imported the broader context of John 13, that wasn’t her intent. She merely used the allusion to add “emotive punch”–in this case, playfulness. Sometimes the punch is dependent upon the subtle carryover of the broader context. Not in this case. I stood seconds from the original utterance and shared a very similar worldview with the speaker, yet the meaning of the allusion was not quite clear.

Nevertheless, the allusion, the emotive punch, was effective. Wasn’t it?

Intertextual connections are a little more elusive than I sometimes imagine, at least at the level of authorial intent.