chapter  6
25 Pages

Performing the Performative

In practical criticism with a speech-act orientation, pride of place is held by drama. Given the collective nature of illocution, there may well be a reason for speech-act critics' attraction to the theater besides the prominence dramatic performances establish for linguistic performatives. Drama more palpably involves collective experience than other Western genres. Dramatic practice and speech-act theory accord equal emphasis to the communal nature of human experience, and the theater's prominence in speech-act criticism is suited to its embodiment of the speech-act vision of the world. Keir Elam's The Semiotics of Theatre and Drama uses the speech-act vision to contest the distinction between a play's action and its dialogue. Elam addresses how characters' social situation becomes manifest in the illocutionary possibilities open to them, another demonstration that explicitly performative verbs have special power to convey the combination of the linguistic and extra-linguistic that constitutes communal existence.