The Literary Essay as Encomium in Virginia Woolf’s “The Enchanted Organ”

Margarita Esther Sánchez Cuervo


This article proposes a rhetorical analysis of “The Enchanted Organ”, a short essay by Virginia Woolf that reviews Anne Thackeray’s collection of letters that was published after her death. In this review, Woolf portrays Anne Thackeray’s character starting from extracts from the diary and letters that she wrote as part of her literary production. The argumentative nature of this essay can be studied by means of a rhetorical analysis that examines the operations of inventio, dispositio and elocutio. The account of arguments and rhetorical figures that appears after the analysis of these operations results in an interpretation of presence that draws Anne Thackeray as a gentle figure that was content with simple things and that “was dancing to the music” of her writing. As a result, “The Enchanted Organ” can be read as an encomium that praises Thackeray’s cheerful personality rather than her literary merits.



Literary essay, rhetorical analysis, inventio, dispositio, elocutio, rhetorical presence, Virginia Woolf

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