Mobile characters, mobile texts: homelessness and intertextuality in contemporary texts for young people

  • Mavis Reimer
Keywords: homelessness, metaphor, young people’s narratives, intertextuality, transposition, globalization, Julia Kristeva, street kids, uncanny, home


Since the 1990s, narratives about homelessness for and about young people have proliferated around the world. A cluster of thematic elements shared by many of these narratives of the age of globalization points to the deep anxiety that is being expressed about a social, economic, and cultural system under stress or struggling to find a new formation. More surprisingly, many of the narratives also use canonical cultural texts extensively as intertexts. This article considers three novels from three different national traditions to address the work of intertextuality in narratives about homelessness: Skellig by UK author David Almond, which was published in 1998; Chronicler of the Winds by Swedish author Henning Mankell, which was first published in 1988 in Swedish as Comédia Infantil and published in an English translation in 2006; and Stained Glass by Canadian author Michael Bedard, which was published in 2002. Using Julia Kristeva’s definition of intertextuality as the ‘‘transposition of one (or several) sign systems into another,’’ I propose that all intertexts can be thought of as metaphoric texts, in the precise sense that they carry one text into another. In the narratives under discussion in this article, the idea of homelessness is in perpetual motion between texts and intertexts, ground and figure, the literal and the symbolic. What the child characters and the readers who take up the position offered to implied readers are asked to do, I argue, is to put on a way of seeing that does not settle, a way of being that strains forward toward the new.

Keywords: homelessness; metaphor; young people’s narratives; intertextuality; transposition; globalization; Julia Kristeva; street kids; uncanny; home

(Published: 19 June 2013)

Barnboken tidskrift för barnlitteraturforskning/Journal of Children’s Literature Research, Vol. 36, 2013

How to Cite
Reimer, M. (2013). Mobile characters, mobile texts: homelessness and intertextuality in contemporary texts for young people. Barnboken, 36.
Tema: Hemlöshet/Theme: Homelessness