Document Type

Book Chapter

Publication Date



The Rhetoric of Topics and Forms



First Page


Last Page


URL with Digital Object Identifier


The article draws up an inventory of, and compares strategies for, the theoretical and critical treatment of the absence–presence interplay at stake in the literary and visual representations of absence. This brings to our attention a multiplicity of heterogeneous and, to a greater or lesser degree, marginal signify-ing phenomena that have in common patterns of disrupting and deviating from the standard conventions of creating and conveying meaning through figures of absence. Lacking a name for these disparate yet similar instances where meaning is created from empty signifiers, we have chosen to call them figural voids. This attempt to produce a critical inventory focuses on modern and contemporary approaches to the analysis of figures and figurations of absence in literature, visual arts, and cinema, relying on the works of Anne Cauquelin, Jean-Pierre Mourey, Philippe Le Roux, Maurice Frechuret, Bruno Duborgel, and Marc Vernet. Their theoretical positions stand in a variety of literary and artistic contexts that are seemingly disconnected yet can be brought together on the basis of their common affinity to figural voids. This calls for a comparative standpoint and can be illustrated with examples ranging across historical periods and disciplines: from Stoic writings to Alberto Moravia’s Boredom, from Mallarmé’s blank page to the controversial curatorial practices espoused by Yves Klein.

Creative Commons License

Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 4.0 License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 4.0 License.

Citation of this paper:

Irimia, Alexandra. "Depicting Absence: Thematic and Stylistic Paradoxes of Representation in Visual and Literary Imagery". Volume 4 The Rhetoric of Topics and Forms, edited by Gianna Zocco, Berlin, Boston: De Gruyter, 2021, pp. 533-544.

Find in your library