chapter  5
16 Pages

Textual Illocution

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. This socialized criticism can address two principal topics, the status of literature in general and the status of the separate utterances making up a given text. In the seventies, Richard Ohmann and Mary Louise Pratt both chose the first topic and published important efforts to develop a global definition of literature through speech-act categories. Ohmann most systematically discussed textual illocution in an essay that announces its global concern in its title, 'Speech Acts and the Definition of Literature'. In Ohmann's view, the multiple efforts throughout the history of Western aesthetics to distinguish literature from other verbal forms have all concentrated cither on locutionary or perlocutionary features; none has addressed literature's illocutionary being.