photo of the words “Déjà Vu,” a ride at Six Flags over Georgia

Source: Déjà Vu (Six Flags Over Georgia) 01, Reubot, Wikimedia Commons

Do you know what déjà vu means? Have you ever experienced it? It is the experience or sensation of having been somewhere or done something before, though you know you haven’t.

Whether or not one believes this is a sixth sense or is evidence of a parallel or prior life, we can all enjoy and appreciate one aspect of this sensation. It deepens the present experience by connecting it mysteriously to something else.

A much more common but no less enjoyable experience is one we could call “literary déjà vu.” You experience this feeling when something you read seems familiar because you have read something similar in the past.

Line drawing of two men eating in a crowded restaurant

Source: Déjà vu, DailyPic, Flickr

Pretend you’re reading an article about how to paint a fence as a way to make some extra cash, and you remember the part in The Adventures of Tom Sawyer where Tom is made to paint a fence. This connection flashes into your head because both texts have to do with painting a fence. Because you read Tom Sawyer at some point, reading the article made you feel like you’d read parts of this article or something similar in the past. This is “literary déjà vu.”

Source: A great relationship is about two things: First, appreciating the similarities, and second, respecting the differences, deeplifequotes, Flikr

Becoming conscious of how reading one text is related to reading another text is not really called “literary déjà vu,” but rather, reading intertextually. Although you read intertextually all the time (whether you choose to or not), the richness that such reading brings is greatly increased when you are aware of how your reading connects to other texts. Imagine the power you can add to your reading by looking at how texts are similar and how they are different. Doing this involves consciously allowing a conversation to occur between what you are reading now and what you have read before that connects to the present text.

In this lesson, you will read and annotate a pair of texts to make inferences, draw conclusions, and synthesize ideas and details using textual evidence. Prepare to get involved in a conversation with the two texts you will be reading. Who knows? Maybe you’ll get a flash of a third text that connects to these two and experience your own literary déjà vu.