Rule of Three


Dancing Robot

directed by Neill Blomkamp

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With the drop of a beat, an unremarkable family coupé unfurls to reveal its true self as a towering, anthropomorphic robot. Having limbered up while leaning against a nearby car-park sign, it embarks on an impeccably choreographed dance routine. Its mechanised moves are reminiscent of Justin Timberlake’s steps, while its familiar form riffs on Transformers’ morphing machinery. But this hunk of mettlesome metal is not here to save the world. It is a performer, throwing shapes to entertain the tech-savvy consumer. We are reminded that automobiles and Autobots alike are essentially overgrown toys, however functional they may be.

Words by Katherine Fieldgate

Wide Sargasso Sea

by Jean Rhys

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A thesis-length work of literary criticism in fictional form, Wide Sargasso Sea reappraises a stifled supporting character from Jane Eyre. Tethered by an earthy moniker of her husband’s choosing, the ‘Bertha’ of Charlotte Brontë’s novel is met in her earlier guise as Antoinette Cosway, a Creole heiress. Antoinette’s noble English husband is left thirsty by her will and beauty, and by the Caribbean's ‘rivers and rain … the sunsets of whatever colour’. As the nobleman's parchedness grows, Jean Rhys takes a torch to the barricaded attic door of Wide Sargasso Sea’s sister text, giving air to the skeletons in the aristocrat’s closet.

Words by Elizabeth Brown

Hark! A Vagrant

by Kate Beaton
Comic collection

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Nobody hides from Kate Beaton in the pages of history. Famous figures, factual and fictional, are dragged from the past to become comic fodder. Among the guests are a giggly Jules Verne, a foul-mouthed Anne Brontë, and the Odyssey’s sirens, pouting as if for a profile pic. The Great Gatsby’s billboard of an omniscient optometrist obscures far less savoury signage. Macbeth’s trio of witches have their plans mired by a trip to the dentist’s. Rosalind Franklin’s research is belittled by a pair of men who excitedly sneak a peek in secret. Throughout, the lives and works referenced are affectionately gifted with witty subtexts and absurdist revisionism.

Words by John Wadsworth

Today's connection

Intertextuality, broadly speaking, is when one text references another and adds to the associations of that original text. 'Dancing Robot', Wide Sargasso Sea, and Hark! A Vagrant all reference existing works – Transformers, Jane Eyre, The Great Gatsby, and so on – then build on those works' existing meanings.

More to discover

Dancing Robot: Watch the advertisement here.

Wide Sargasso Sea: Read an excerpt from the novel here, and an introduction to the work by Bidisha on the website of The British Library. Claire Armistead has written about the book for The Guardian, as have Danielle McLaughlin for The Paris Review and Laura Fish for The Independent.

Hark! A Vagrant: Read Kate Beaton's cartoons on her official website here. Sam Thielman has interviewed the author for The Guardian.

Question of the day

Which artworks that reference other artworks would you recommend?
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