A Rhetorical Approach to the Literary Essay: Pedagogical Implications

Margarita Esther Sánchez Cuervo


The teaching of the literary essay is usually ignored in many universities due to its probing and inconclusive form which has not favoured the existence of models of analysis. However, the argumentative nature of this discourse can be examined through a reading that allows the recognition of some rhetorical operations like the invention of arguments (inuentio), their arrangement (dispositio) and expressive manifestation (elocutio). This article proposes a model of analysis following this rhetorical approach. In particular, I apply this analysis to a short essay by Virginia Woolf, ‘Royalty’. Woolf has been considered a major writer of the twentieth century. Although the style of her novels has been extensively researched from diverse perspectives, the style of her essays has not received much critical attention. Throughout my study, I indicate how the recognition and interpretation of arguments and rhetorical figures can help to define the style of this essay. Furthermore, I provide some guidelines for the identification and further interpretation of these rhetorical elements. Both the analysis and the guidelines can be useful in the literature and composition classes.


Teaching literature; Literary essay; Argumentative discourse; Rhetorical figures; Virginia Woolf

DOI: https://doi.org/10.14198/raei.2016.29.11