chapter  7
18 Pages

The Prose of the World

With prose fiction, speech-act criticism has concentrated on dialogue. The special vocation of theatrical techniques for revealing that saying and doing are one holds even when those techniques appear in other genres. Fiction too uses affirmation or denial of dialogic success to convey the solidity or fragility of connections among speakers. When critics apply Austin's categories to the speech acts represented in prose, they commonly ignore the attacks on representation often made by contemporary literary theory. Speech-act criticism of prose has joined theatrical analysis in concentrating on the ways overtly performative verbs express an illocutionary community. The genre of prose fiction that has occasioned the most heated discussion of the referent's status in mimetic literature is sociohistorical realism, especially as found in Balzac, Stendhal, and their successors among French novelists. Realist prose can for Barthes make you quiver with pleasure as well, but only when it stops trying to be realistic.