Abstract 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 fiancé
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.
Journal of Romance Studies promotes innovative critical work in the areas of linguistics, literature, performing and visual arts, media, material culture, intellectual and cultural history, critical and cultural theory, psychoanalysis, gender studies, social sciences, and anthropology. The primary focus is on those parts of the world that speak, or have spoken, French, Italian, Spanish or Portuguese, but work on other cultures may be included. Issues cross national and disciplinary boundaries in order to stimulate new ways of thinking about cultural history and practice.