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Kunstformen der Natur (1904) by Ernst Haeckel
Kunstformen der Natur (1904) by Ernst Haeckel

The word pastiche describes a literary or other artistic genre. The word has two competing meanings, either meaning a "hodge-podge" or an imitation. Both meanings are discussed below.



In this usage, a work is called pastiche if it is cobbled together in imitation of several original works. As the Oxford English Dictionary puts it, a pastiche in this sense is "a medley of various ingredients; a hotchpotch, farrago, jumble." This meaning accords with etymology: pastiche is the French version of the greco-Roman dish pastitsio or pasticcio, which designated a kind of pie made of many different ingredients.

In the 18th century, opera pasticcios were frequently made by composers as notable as George Frideric Handel (e.g. Giove in Argo), Christoph Willibald Gluck, and Johann Christian Bach. These composite works would consist mainly of portions of other composers' work, although they could also include original composition. The portions borrowed from other composers would be more or less freely adapted, especially in the case of arias in pasticcio operas by substituting a new text for the original one.

Although there were many opera pasticcios in the 18th century, instrumental works would also sometimes be assembled from pre-existing compositions, a notable instance of this being the first four piano concertos of Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart. These concertos (K. 37, 39–41) were assembled almost entirely from keyboard sonata movements by contemporary composers, to which the boy Mozart added orchestral parts supporting the keyboard soloist.

Some works of art are pastiche in both senses of the term; for example, the David Lodge novel and the Star Wars series mentioned below appreciatively imitate work from multiple sources.


A pastiche mass is a mass where the constituent movements are from different Mass settings.

Masses are composed by classical composers as a set of movements: Kyrie, Gloria, Credo, Sanctus, Agnus Dei. (Examples: the Missa Solemnis by Beethoven and the Messe de Nostre Dame by Guillaume de Machaut.) In a pastiche mass, the performers may choose a Kyrie from one composer, and a Gloria from another, or, choose a Kyrie from one setting of an individual composer, and a Gloria from another.

Most often this convention is chosen for concert performances, particularly by early music ensembles.


In this usage, the term denotes a literary technique employing a generally light-hearted tongue-in-cheek imitation of another's style; although jocular, it is usually respectful.

For example, many stories featuring Sherlock Holmes, originally created by Arthur Conan Doyle, have been written as pastiches since the author's time. David Lodge's novel The British Museum Is Falling Down (1965) is a pastiche of works by Joyce, Kafka, and Virginia Woolf. Tom Stoppard's Rosencrantz and Guildenstern are Dead is a pastiche of Shakespeare's Hamlet.

Pastiche is also found in non-literary works, including art and music. For instance, Charles Rosen has characterized Mozart's various works in imitation of Baroque style as pastiche, and Edvard Grieg's Holberg Suite was written as a conscious homage to the music of an earlier age. Perhaps one of the best examples of pastiche in modern music is the that of George Rochberg, who used the technique in his String Quartet No. 3 of 1972 and Music for the Magic Theater. Rochberg turned to pastiche from serialism after the death of his son in 1963.

Many of "Weird Al" Yankovic's songs are pastiches: for example, "Dare to Be Stupid" is a Devo pastiche, and "Bob" from the album Poodle Hat is a pastiche of Bob Dylan. "Bohemian Rhapsody", by Queen is unusual as it is a pastiche in both senses of the word, as there are many distinct styles imitated in the song, all 'hodge-podged' together to create one piece of music.

Pastiche is prominent in popular culture. Many genre writings, particularly in fantasy, are essentially pastiches. The Star Wars series of films by George Lucas is often considered to be a pastiche of traditional science fiction television serials (or radio shows). The fact that Lucas's films have been influential (spawning their own pastiches - vis the 1983 3D film Metalstorm: The Destruction of Jared-Syn) can be regarded as a function of postmodernity.

The films of Quentin Tarantino are often described as pastiches, as they often pay tribute to (or imitate) pulp novels, blaxploitation and/or Chinese kung fu films, though some say his films are more of an homage. The same definition is said to apply to the video games of Hideo Kojima as well, since they adopt many conventions of action films.

Pastiche can also be a cinematic device wherein the creator of the film pays homage to another filmmaker's style and use of cinematography, including camera angles, lighting, and mise en scène. A film's writer may also offer a pastiche based on the works of other writers (this is especially evident in historical films and documentaries but can be found in non-fiction drama, comedy and horror films as well).

Well-known academic Fredric Jameson has a somewhat more critical view of pastiche, describing it as "blank parody" (Jameson, 1991), especially with reference to the postmodern parodic practices of self-reflexivity and intertextuality. By this is meant that rather than being a jocular but still respectful imitation of another style, pastiche in the postmodern era has become a "dead language", without any political or historical content, and so has also become unable to satirize in any effective way. Whereas pastiche used to be a humorous literary style, it has, in postmodernism, become "devoid of laughter" (Jameson, 1991).

In Urban Planning, a pastiche is used to refer to neighborhoods as imitations of building styles as conceived by major planners. Many post-war European neighborhoods can in this way be desribed as pastiches from planners like Le Corbusier or Ebenezer Howard.


Among some Conan the Barbarian fans, the term Pastiche is used to describe posthumous follow-ups to the Robert E. Howard stories, written by other writers without Howard's authorization. This includes the Conan stories of L. Sprague de Camp and Lin Carter, who laid the Conan stories out in a chronology counter to the stated approach of Howard himself, and also saw fit to actually revise Howard's original tales to satisfy their own preferences.

See also

Unless indicated otherwise, the text in this article is either based on Wikipedia article "Pastiche" or another language Wikipedia page thereof used under the terms of the GNU Free Documentation License; or on research by Jahsonic and friends. See Art and Popular Culture's copyright notice.

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