Journal of Romance Studies

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

Journal of Romance Studies (2003), 3, (3), 23–41.

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.

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McKenzie, Andrea Christine (2000) Witnesses to War: Discourse and Community in the Correspondence of Vera Brittain, Roland Leighton, Edward Brittain, Geoffrey Thurlow and Victor Richardson, Ph.D. thesis, University of Waterloo. Google Scholar

Outditt, Sharon (1994) Fighting Forces Writing Women: Identity and Ideology in the First World War (London: Routledge). Fighting Forces Writing Women: Identity and Ideology in the First World War Google Scholar

Perelman, Chaim and Olga Olbrechts Tyteca (1969) The New Rhetoric: A Treatise on Argumentation, trans. John Wilkinson and Purcell Weaver (Notre Dame IN: Notre Dame University Press; first edition in French 1958). The New Rhetoric: A Treatise on Argumentation Google Scholar

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Tylee, Claire M. (1990) The Great War and Women’s Consciousness (London: Macmillan). The Great War and Women’s Consciousness Google Scholar

Winter, Jay (1995) Sites of Memory, Sites of Mourning: The Great War in European Cultural History (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press). Sites of Memory, Sites of Mourning: The Great War in European Cultural History Google Scholar

Amossy, Ruth (2000) L’Argumentation dans le discours: discours politique, littérature d’idées, fiction (Paris: Nathan). L’Argumentation dans le discours: discours politique, littérature d’idées, fiction Google Scholar

Amossy, Ruth (ed.) (1999) Images de soi dans le discours: la construction de l’éthos (Lausanne: Delachaux et Niestlé). Images de soi dans le discours: la construction de l’éthos Google Scholar

Audoin-Rouzeau, Stéphane (2001) Cinq deuils de guerre 1914–1918 (Paris: Noesis). Cinq deuils de guerre 1914–1918 Google Scholar

Audoin-Rouzeau, Stéphane and Annette Becker (2002) Understanding the Great War (New York: Hill and Wang; first edition in French, Paris: Gallimard: 2000). Understanding the Great War Google Scholar

Berry, Paul and Mark Bostridge (1995) Vera Brittain: A Life (London: Random House). Vera Brittain: A Life Google Scholar

Brittain, Vera (1978) [1933] Testament of Youth: An Autobiographical Study of the Years 1900–1925 (London: Virago Press). Testament of Youth: An Autobiographical Study of the Years 1900–1925 Google Scholar

Brittain, Vera (1981) Chronicle of Youth: Vera Brittain’s War Diary 1913–1917, ed. Alan Bishop with Terry Smart (London: Victor Gollancz). Chronicle of Youth: Vera Brittain’s War Diary 1913–1917 Google Scholar

Brittain, Vera (1998) Letters from a Lost Generation: First World War Letters of Vera Brittain and Four Friends, ed. Alan Bishop and Mark Bostridge (Boston: Northeastern University Press). Letters from a Lost Generation: First World War Letters of Vera Brittain and Four Friends Google Scholar

Ducrot, Oswald et al. (1980) Les Mots du discours (Paris: Minuit). Les Mots du discours Google Scholar

Grize, Jean-Blaize (1990) Logique et langage (Paris: Ophrys). Logique et langage Google Scholar

Koren, Roselyne and Ruth Amossy (eds) (2002) Après Perelman: quelles politiques pour les nouvelles rhétoriques? L’argumentation dans les sciences du langage (Paris: L’Harmattan). Après Perelman: quelles politiques pour les nouvelles rhétoriques? L’argumentation dans les sciences du langage Google Scholar

Layton, Lynne (1987) ‘Vera Brittain’s testament(s)’, in Behind the Lines: Gender and the Two World Wars, ed. Margaret Randolph Higonnet, Jane Jenson, Sonya Michel and Margaret Collins Weitz (New Haven: Yale University Press). Vera Brittain’s testament(s) Behind the Lines: Gender and the Two World Wars Google Scholar

Lejeune, Philippe (1993) Le Moi des demoiselles: enquête sur le journal de jeune fille (Paris: Seuil). Le Moi des demoiselles: enquête sur le journal de jeune fille Google Scholar

McKenzie, Andrea Christine (2000) Witnesses to War: Discourse and Community in the Correspondence of Vera Brittain, Roland Leighton, Edward Brittain, Geoffrey Thurlow and Victor Richardson, Ph.D. thesis, University of Waterloo. Google Scholar

Outditt, Sharon (1994) Fighting Forces Writing Women: Identity and Ideology in the First World War (London: Routledge). Fighting Forces Writing Women: Identity and Ideology in the First World War Google Scholar

Perelman, Chaim and Olga Olbrechts Tyteca (1969) The New Rhetoric: A Treatise on Argumentation, trans. John Wilkinson and Purcell Weaver (Notre Dame IN: Notre Dame University Press; first edition in French 1958). The New Rhetoric: A Treatise on Argumentation Google Scholar

Piégay-Gros, Nathalie (1996) Introduction à l’intertextualité (Paris: Dunod). Introduction à l’intertextualité Google Scholar

Tylee, Claire M. (1990) The Great War and Women’s Consciousness (London: Macmillan). The Great War and Women’s Consciousness Google Scholar

Winter, Jay (1995) Sites of Memory, Sites of Mourning: The Great War in European Cultural History (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press). Sites of Memory, Sites of Mourning: The Great War in European Cultural History Google Scholar

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Amossy, Ruth