Speech act theory and the teaching of literature

Keating, Robert M. (1984) Speech act theory and the teaching of literature. Masters thesis, Memorial University of Newfoundland.

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    Available under License - The author retains copyright ownership and moral rights in this thesis. Neither the thesis nor substantial extracts from it may be printed or otherwise reproduced without the author's permission.
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Abstract

Speech act theory is a relatively recent subject of study in the philosophy of language and in the philosophy of the mind. The movement appears to have commenced in 1962 with J.L. Austin's How to do Things with Words. The impetus, however, came with the writings of John Searle, beginning with Speech Acts in 1969. -- To philosophers who study this phenomenon, the notion of intentionality is seen as a major component of any work of language used for human communication. Common background experiences and knowledge of speech acts of the common culture are other items of importance in the interpretation of an utterance. -- Because a literary work is a work in language, and since the purpose of language is communication, the literary work is viewed as discourse, and thereby subject to interpretation using speech act theory. The literary text becomes the mediary between writer and reader. The reader completes the speech act with his interpretation of the writer's utterance made manifest by the text. -- The major purpose of this paper has been to argue that a theory of speech acts is tenable as an approach to the interpretation and analysis of literary works at the classroom level. To that end, an overview of speech act theory is attempted, as well as a positing of literature as discourse. The conclusion proposed is that prior to any analysis of a literary work, along the lines of the New Criticism for instance, there must be an understanding of the utterance, and this is best accomplished from the point of view of speech act theory.

Item Type: Thesis (Masters)
URI: http://research.library.mun.ca/id/eprint/4359
Item ID: 4359
Additional Information: Bibliography: leaves 60-65.
Department(s): Education, Faculty of
Date: 1984
Date Type: Submission
Library of Congress Subject Heading: Speech acts (Linguistics); Literature--Study and teaching

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