Words, like shells, are signs as well as things

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South African (Afrikaans) novelist Ingrid Winterbach is known for her individual style, the originality of voice in her novels, as well as for an unusual and ironic perspective on reality. This article focuses on Winterbach’s ability to integrate word choices and narrative technique so that passages in her fiction can be described as highly iconic. Winterbach exploits language from different domains, discourses, and semantic fields, as well as archaisms, resulting in incongruous phrasing, ambiguity, and irony. Word play and lists of words activate semantic values by relying on the materiality of words. In Winterbach’s novels, words do not only create unexpected and defamiliarized meanings on account of illogical systems of creative thought, but they also bear witness to the previous ideologically suspect meanings in each word’s history, thereby reactivating the kind of archaeology of thought and language described by Foucault.


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