The Drifting Language of Architectural Accessibility in Victor Hugo's Notre-Dame de Paris

Essaka Joshua


Buildings often employ visual and spatial rhetorics that both persuade us of their function and determine personal functionality. Architectural language is a defining feature of disability in Victor Hugo's Notre-Dame de Paris (1831) and a universally accessible language. In emphasizing the synecdochic relationship between gothic buildings and the disabled body, Hugo demonstrates that he is not only a pioneer in urban and architectural semantics, but that he also understands the complex symbolic relationship between architecture and the disabled body. Defining beauty as atypicality, through the gothic aesthetic, Hugo presents Notre Dame Cathedral as a uniquely drifting symbol (with its multiple meanings, its transitional status and its cultural miscegenation) with a revelatory function: it expresses disability as normative.


Accessibility; aesthetics; architecture; spatial rhetoric; synecdoche; Victor Hugo; visual rhetoric

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Copyright (c) 2011 Essaka Joshua

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