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A rhetoric of inauthenticity: critical object images in Woolf’s Victorian scenes

Margaret J.-M. Sönmez ORCID logo
From the journal Semiotica

Abstract

This paper extends the fields of visual and object semiosis, style, and rhetoric by introducing the concept of critical object images. It identifies five of their rhetorical functions in literature and demonstrates the semiotic and rhetorical specificity and force of literary object images. Inter-disciplinary concepts and theories used in the study are introduced before the concept is tested and developed through analyses of object images with critical roles in the Victorian scenes of Virginia Woolf’s novels. The inductive analyses trace the semiosis and stylistic affordances (meanings) of the selected critical object images, with reference to three categories of kitsch inauthenticity, and their formal and cultural contexts, noting the rhetorical function(s) they serve. Multimodal stylistics and the semiotics of visual images and of objects are used in these analyses, and the unique contribution of critical object images as rhetorical elements in literature is uncovered and explained. The analysis of Woolf’s representation of selected objects shows how the critical object images function rhetorically, through their stylistic connotations (here of kitsch inauthenticity), to present unambiguous meanings that are not openly stated in the texts’ verbal discourse.


Corresponding author: Margaret J.-M. Sönmez, Middle East Technical University, Ankara, Turkey, E-mail:

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Received: 2020-07-16
Accepted: 2022-01-22
Published Online: 2022-05-27

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