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  • 1.
    Hauksson-Tresch, Nathalie
    Dalarna University, School of Humanities and Media Studies, French.
    Visual Rhetoric of the Truth in the Dreyfus Affair: A Semiotic Approach2019In: International Journal for the Semiotics of Law, ISSN 0952-8059, E-ISSN 1572-8722, p. 1-17Article in journal (Refereed)
    Abstract [en]

    At the turn of the twentieth century, French society was shaken by a scandal that affected it at many levels to varying degrees and that is still considered as a symbol of injustice, miscarriage of justice and antisemitism. The Dreyfus Affair started in 1894 when an artillery officer of Jewish descent was convicted and sentenced to life imprisonment for communicating military secrets to the German embassy in Paris. Only years later was Alfred Dreyfus exonerated and rehabilitated, due mainly to the role of the media and the famous article by the novelist Emile Zola, “J’accuse”. The press, in general, played a fundamental role in the narration of the event and in the complex chemistry that led a confidential case of espionage to become a broad public debate, exemplifying the constant struggle against prejudice and irrational impulses that implies democracy. From the impressive volume of publications, I selected two drawings issued when the truth about captain Dreyfus’s innocence began emerging. One is by Félix Vallotton, “That’s why she was not coming out!”, the other by Gustave-Henri Jossot, “She was too naked”, and they both give an interpretation of the truth and of the reasons why it—the truth—came out so late. The semiotic approach of the drawings and of Zola’s pamphlet in terms of visual message leads us to distinguish three aspects. The first is iconic and consists of establishing the links between a signifier, a signified and a referent in order to recognize the immediate message but also the connoted signification; the second is linguistic and consists of the captions; and the third is plastic, focusing on size, colors and shapes. These analyzes of the mode in which visual artefacts produce meaning and provoke an interpretative process are made in terms of rhetoric insofar as rhetoric is considered, not only in terms of figures of speech, but as a method of persuasion and argumentation.

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