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Netlore, Memes and the Pandemic: Adjusting Virtually to the New Normal

Michela Giordano, Maria Antonietta Marongiu



Starting from the assumption that “(t)he worldwide COVID-19 pandemic in 2020 has monopolised news reports and public discussion in traditional media and on social media” (Dynel 2020, 2), this paper explores the relevance memes have had in the COVID-19 emergency (Giordano and Marongiu 2021a; 2021b). Memes represent the vernacular discourse of netizens, or user-created derivatives produced by Internet users belonging to the participatory culture (Shifman 2014), otherwise deemed as netlore (Sánchez 2019), a kind of folklore comprising humorous texts and art. Internet memes, as a virus, have a high power of replication (Wiggings 2019). This work looks at how virtual platforms became the space for social participation on the pandemic debate. In particular, proand anti-vaccine memes were a way to cope with the stressful times throughout the period 2020-2021. A corpus of static online memes in English is investigated to ascertain how the treatment of the disease and the vaccine issue are framed figuratively, both verbally and visually, through the use of metaphors, similes, intertextuality, and other rhetorical features. Memes are considered as examples of Netlore, or digital contemporary folklore aimed at adapting to life in the new normal.


COVID-19 crisis discourse; humour; intertextuality; memes; Netlore; rhetoric

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DOI: https://doi.org/10.7358/lcm-2023-002-gima

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