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Representation of Rhetorical Presence in Virginia Woolf’s “Madame de Sévigné”

Authors
  • Cuervo, Margarita Esther Sánchez
Type
Published Article
Journal
Prague Journal of English Studies
Publisher
Walter de Gruyter GmbH
Publication Date
Jul 01, 2020
Volume
9
Issue
1
Pages
65–85
Identifiers
DOI: 10.2478/pjes-2020-0004
Source
De Gruyter
Keywords
License
Green

Abstract

This paper seeks to represent rhetorical presence in “Madame de Sevigne”, an essay by Virginia Woolf that reviews Sevigne’s collection of letters. In general, Woolf’s essays that appraise an author and her/his work are organised into several sections that correspond to the traditional rhetorical levels of inventio, dispositio and elocutio. The synergy of arguments and figures that are found at each of these levels are first-order effects which can create rhetorical presence, defined as a strategy that relies on the selection of certain elements and how they are presented to the audience. Presence of this kind involves a second-order effect which transmits the persuasive and expressive value of the essay if several conditions pertaining to the values of the audience and Woolf’s expertise in writing are attained. “Madame de Sevigne” is persuasive in that it tries to increase readers’ admiration towards the letter writer and thus affects the readers in a positive way. This admiration is achieved by means of Woolf’s specific use of language, which amplifies Sevigne’s figure and grants expressive prominence to the text.

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