ABSTRACT

To adopt a speech-act perspective on literary texts (rather than on fictional discourse) is to see that literature, like any other linguistic performance, is a collective interaction as well as a verbal object. Like any other linguistic performance, therefore, literature is illuminated rather than impoverished when its interpreters consider it in relation to its users. Although there's no shortage of critical schools that argue with seductive vigor for the text's absolute and sacrosanct locutionary autonomy, a speech-act vision requires that we focus rather on the text's illocutionary force. Since the fundamental starting point for every Austinian inquiry is the collectively sustained conventions that enable words to do things, to consider literature as illocution is also to consider the societies from which it comes and in which it circulates.