A rhetorical approach to rewriting: genre and Vera Brittain's experience of mourning

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Set in the framework of a theory of argumentation in discourse, this paper examines the impact of generic constraints on rewriting. More specifically, it analyses the way in which an episode of Vera Brittain's life, the loss of her fiancĂ© during World War I, is rewritten in her autobiographical texts – diary, correspondence and memoir. The attempt at coming to terms with the terrible loss, at understanding and interpreting its circumstances, at sharing it with others, changes when rewritten for another audience in another situation of communication. The exploration of the means through which a new version is worked out – quotation, copying, rephrasing, reframing, addition of details, change of point of view, polyphony, etc. – throws light not only on the rhetoric of rewriting, but also on the experience of mourning in its relation to the 1914–18 ‘war culture’. By showing how mourning as a cultural phenomenon is differently constructed in variable verbal contexts, rhetorical analysis aspires to complement cultural history.

Document Type: Research Article

DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.3167/147335303782369321

Publication date: December 1, 2003

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