How to do Things with Austin and Searle: Speech Act Theory and Literary Criticism Author(s): Stanley E.

Fish Source: MLN, Vol. 91, No. 5, Centennial Issue: Responsibilities of the Critic (Oct., 1976), pp. 983-1025 Published by: The Johns Hopkins University Press Stable URL: Accessed: 30/09/2010 10:03
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I. I Banish You!



In the second scene of the second act of Coriolanus, the tribunes Brutus and Sicinius decide that in order to bring about the hero's downfalltheyneed onlyleave him to his own (verbal)devices. They know that he cannot be named consul until he asks the citizensfor theirvotes and they are sure that faced withthis situationhe will perform badly. "He will,"saysSicinius,"require them,/As ifhe did contemnwhat he requested should be in them to give" (157-9).' This is not only an accurate predictionof what Coriolanus does in fact do (and not do); it is also an astonishinganticipationof the in formulation Speech Act theoryof the preparatory conditionson requesting. Here is John Searle's analysis of that act (where S= Speaker, H = Hearer, and A=Act):
Request Types of Rule Propositional Content Preparatory Future actA ofH 1. H is able to do A. S believesH is able to do A. 2. It is not obvious to bothS and H thatH willdoA in the normal course of eventsof his own accord. S wantsH to do A Counts as an attempt getH to do A. to (Speech Acts,Cambridge, 1969, p. 66)
*1 gratefully acknowledge the advice and criticism Rob Cummins,Frank Hubof bard, Walter Michaels, and David Sachs who will find here not only some of their ideas but some of their sentences. 'Throughout I have used the edition edited for Signet by Reuben Brower (New York, 1966). laAlthoughI deploy the vocabularyof Searle's versionof Speech Act theory, am I not committedto its precise formulations. MLN 91 (1976) 983-1025 0 Copyright1976 byTheJohns Press Hopkins University Allrights reproductionanyform in of reserved.

Sincerity Essential



According to Searle, the rules governing the making of a request act) are not regulativebut constitu(and of any other illocutionary existingbehavior, tive:thatis, theydo not regulatean antecedently but define the conditionsunder which thatbehavior can be said to occur; if those conditions are unfulfilled,that behavior is either defectiveor void (some conditions are more centrallyconstitutive than others); the speaker will have done something (one cannot help but do thingswithwords),but he willnot have performedthe act in question. This would be true even ifthe name of the act were part of the utterance. "I promise to flunk you," is not in normal a circumstances promise because "a promise is defectiveifthe thing promised is somethingthe promisee does not want done" (Searle, is p. 58). What Sicinius predicts(correctly) thatCoriolanus willvoid his requestby makingit in such a wayas to indicatethathe does not accept the conditionson its successfulperformance.He does not, forexample, believe thatH (the hearer or requestee) is able to do A appearance (renderajudgment by voting).Indeed, in his veryfirst on the stage,he attacksthe citizenson just thispoint."You!" he tells them,"are no surer,no, /Than is the coal of fireupon the ice." Not only are you fickle("With every minute you do change a mind,/ And call him noble that was now your hate"), but yourjudgments are true readings of value only if they are reversed:
are Deserves your hate; and your affections A sick man's appetite, who desires most that Which would increase his evil. He that depends Upon your favor swimswith finsof lead. (Ii,177-81)

Who deserves greatness

Thus Coriolanusjudges those to whosejudgment he is supposed to submit,findingthem incapable of playing their part in the ceremonyenjoined by custom. In so finding,however,he setsaside the for conditionsgoverningthatceremonyand substitutes them conditionsof quite another kind. The abilityof the citizensto bestow be theirvotes cannot legitimately an issue because it is stipulatedby the rules of the game, that is, by the conventionsthat define (or constitute)the workingsof the state. In the contextof those rules the citizensare the onlyones who "are able to do A"; and theyhave that abilityby virtue of their position, and not because they have been certifiedby some test outside the systemof rules. One can complain about theirperformance,but one cannot challenge their



thatgivesthem rightto performwithoutchallengingthe institution one can argue withan umpire,but one cannot theirrole. (Similarly ignore or set aside his decisions and stillbe said to be playingthe disdains game.) This is in factwhatCoriolanus does when he at first to ask for their votes because he considers them incompetentto bestow them. He rejects the public (conventional) stipulation of for competence,and substitutes it his own privateassessment.He declares himselfoutside (or, more properly,above) the systemof rules by which societyfixes its values by refusingto submitto the (speech-act)conditionsunder which its business is conducted. The citizens,on the other hand, do submit to those conditions even though theyknow as well as he does thatin one sense theyare free to disregard them. They discuss the point in Act II, scene iii, immediatelyafter Sicinius makes his prediction.The firstcitizen states the general rule: "Once if he do require our voices, we ought not to deny him." The "ought" here is not moral, but procedural; they incur the obligation because they have bound themselvesahead of time to the systemof conventions.The formula is, if he does x, then we are obliged, because he has correctly invoked the procedure, to do y. Immediately,the second citizen reminds them that the obligation may be repudiated at any time: "We may, sir, if we will." The word "will" has particular force, because it indicates how fragile are the bonds that hold a civil together:in factmen break those bonds whenevertheylike. society The third citizen acknowledges as much, but then goes on to explain what restrainsthem from exercising this freedom. (Were it thismightwell be a not forthe dialogue and the dramaticsituation, rules.) of textbookdiscussionof the forceand necessity constitutive to We have powerin ourselves do it,but it is a powerthatwe have no to power do; forifhe showus hiswoundsand tellus hisdeeds,weare to intothesewoundsand speakforthem;so ifhe tellus putour tongues of hisnobledeeds,we mustalso tellhimour nobleacceptance them. The reasoning is admirably clear and the distinctionsprecise: true, we may do anythingwe like, but if we consider ourselves membersof a state ratherthan as discreteindividuals,then we are bound to the mechanismby which the state determinesvalue, and even when the determination mustcomportourselves accordingly, both of does not sort with our privatejudgments. The "nobility", Coriolanus' deeds and the citizen's acceptance of them, is pro forma. It is not that they personally regard his deeds as noble



(although some of them may), but that theyare noble by virtueof their position in the procedure. Similarly,we are not to imagine that they really feel gratitude; rather they engage in a form of as behavior whichcounts an expression of it. "Counts as" is the importantphrase in thislast sentencebecause it gets at the heart of the Speech Act positionon intention.Intention, in the view of that theory,is a matterof what one takes refor sponsibility by performingcertain conventional (speech) acts. The question of what is going on inside,the question of the "inward performance"is simplybypassed; Speech Act theorydoes not rule on it. This means that intentionsare available to anyone who invokes the proper (publiclyknown and agreed upon) procedures, and italso means thatanyone who invokesthose procedures (knowfor ing that they will be recognized as such) takes responsibility having that intention.Were it otherwise,then the consequences would be disastrous. Were intentionsolely a matterof disposition in relationto whichwords were merelya report,then formulaslike "I'm sorry"and "thank you" would not be accepted as expressions of regretand gratitudeunless it could be proven, by some independent test,thatthe speaker was actuallyso disposed. (The things one does with words would never get done.) And were we not responsiblefor the conventionalacts we perform,then one would foreverbe at the mercyof those who make promises,give permisetc.,and then tellus thattheydidn't mean it. sions,render verdicts, (The thingsone does withwords would have no statusin law.) J. L. Austin's elaboration of this point is classic:
We are apt to have a feelingthattheir[the words] being serious consists in theirbeing utteredas (merely)the outward and visiblesign, forconof venience or other record or for information, an inward and spiritual act: from which it is but a short step to go on to believe or to assume withoutrealizing that for many purposes the outward utterance is a description,trueorfalse, of the occurrence of the inward performance. (1.612) The classicexpression of thisidea is to be found in theHippolytus where Hippolytus says. .. "my tongue swore to, but my heart (or mind or other backstage artiste) did not." Thus "I promise to...." obliges me-puts on record my spiritualassumption of a spiritualshackle. It is gratifying observe in thisveryexample how excess of profunto For one at dity,or rathersolemnity, once paves the way forimmorality. who says "promisingis not merelya matterof utteringwords! It is an standingout inwardand spiritualact!" is apt to appear as a solid moralist against a generation of superficial theorizers: we see him as he sees surveyingthe invisibledepths of ethical space, withall the dishimself,



tinction a specialistin thesui generis. of Yet he provides Hippolytuswith a let out, the bigamistwithan excuse for his "I do" and the welsherwith a defence for his "I bet." Accuracyand morality alike are on the side of the plain saying thatour wordis our bond. (How toDo ThingsWithWords, Oxford, 1962, pp. 9-10)

It is a question finally what is considered real and therefore of of what we are to be faithful Austin is suggestingthat,at least in to. termsof legal and moral obligation,realityis a matterof its public specification.In the alternativeview, realityis essential and substantial; it exists independently of any identifyingprocedures which can only relate to it as theyare more or less accurate. (The implicit analogy is alwaysto a mirror whichis eitherclear or distorting.) It is this latter view (scorned by Austin) that Coriolanus espouses when he refusesto accept the procedures by whichthe state identifies meritbecause theydo not suspend themselves recogniin tionof his inherent, thatis,obvious,superiority. is on thisopposiIt tionthatthe action (such as it is) of the play turns:on the one hand, the State demands adherence to the values its conventionsdefine and create; on the other,Coriolanus invokesvalues that(he claims) exist independentlyof any conventionalformula.When he stands before the citizens and is asked "what hath brought you to't," (II,iii,67) he answers "mine own desert." The correctanswer is "to ask for your votes, to gain your approval," but his point is that he doesn't need it; his desert validates itselfand theyshould acknowledge itwithouteven being asked, as one acknowledgesany natural phenomenon. (He is claimingthata request is unnecessarybecause the non-obviouscondition-"it is not obvious to both S and H that H will do A in the normal course of events of his own accord"doesn't or shouldn't obtain.) The second citizenis puzzled. Things are not going as they were supposed to. He queries, "Your own desert?"The replyis devastating:"Ay, not mine own desire." With thisstatement Coriolanus explicitly violatesthe sincerity condition on requests-S wantsH to do A-and he indicatesthat he will default on the essential condition by not utteringa sentence that "counts as an attemptto get H to do A." (As we have seen, he has been denyingthe principal preparatoryconditions believesH is able to do-from the verybeginning.) Coriolanus knows as well as Austindoes thathaving an intention "merelya matterof uttering is words,"and he is determinedto avoid invokingthe proper formula. The citizens,however, are no less tenacious than he. (Sicinius has already declared that they will not "bate / One jot of cere-



theyremind him, "we hope to mony.") "If we give you anything," gain byyou." Or, in otherwords,you're not going to get something (our votes) for nothing. "Well then," replies Coriolanus, "I pray, your price o'th' consulship?" This is at once tauntingand daring. of Coriolanus gives themtheform a request,but he uses it simplyto ask a question (the forceof "pray" is diminishedso thatit is merely a politenessmarker). The citizens,however, are through playing: "The price is, to ask it kindly.""Kindly" is ambiguous, but in a single direction: it means both properly and in accordance with nature, with kind. He is to ask it according to the conventional rules,thatis, in such a way as to acknowledge his kinshipwithother does by adopting the citizens' men. This is preciselywhathe finally "kindly"and by repeating the formula"I pray,"but thistime with the full force of a genuine (that is, properly executed) request: "Kindly,sir, I pray let me ha't." dialecticof thisscene underscores the reason for The wire-tight Coriolanus' reluctance. By dischargingthe custom of request (the phrase is Sicinius'-IIiii,148) he submitshimselfto thejudgment that his meritdoes not have its own in of others,admitting, effect, it. existence,but requires a public findingto certify self-validating of In a word, he acknowledges (or at least seems to; the felicity his and its on act willlaterbe challenged) his dependence the community evaluativeprocesses. It is exactlythe positionhe least likes to be in, for as Brutus observes to him, "You speak o' th' people /As if you (IIIi,80-82). were a god, to punish, not /A man of theirinfirmity" than CorLater thisstatementis confirmedby no less an authority iolanus himself,"I'll stand," he declares, "As if a man were author of himself/And knew no otherkin" (V,iii,34-37). This is alwayshis desire, to stand alone, without visible or invisible supports, as a natural force. He wants to be independent of societyand of the itselfand its values, seeking inlanguage withwhich it constitutes stead a language that is the servantof essences he alone can recognize because he alone embodies them. As Menenius says, "His heart's his mouth / What his breast forges,that his tongue must vent" (IIIi,256-257). In Searle's terms,this defines the "direction of fit":his language is (or triesto be) true not to publiclyacknowledged realities,but to the absolute values he bears in his breast. ("I will not do't; / Lest I surcease to honor mine own truth.")"Would you have me / False to my nature?" (III,ii,14-15), he asks his mother."Must I / With mybase tongue give to my noble heart /A



lie?" (99-101). It is the choice of the world,he complains "ratherto have my hat than myheart" (II,ii, 103), thatis, to have myrecognition of its meanings ratherthan my loyaltyto my own. His choice, as Volumnia notes, is to be always speaking by his own instruction and to the "matter"which his "heart prompts" (III,ii,53-54). Unfortunately, language is whollyand intractably conventional;it is a space already occupied by the public, "everywherepermeated," as Searle says,"withthe factsof commitments undertaken,obligations assumed" (Speech Acts,p. 197), and Coriolanus spends much of the play trying desperatelyto hold himselfclear of those commitments and obligations.This is whyhe cannot for a time bring himselfto utterthe illocutionary formula: "What, must I say 'I pray,sir'. . . I cannot bring my tongue to such a pace!" (II,iii,53-55). Coriolanus reveals himselfnot only in the criticalscene, where the stakes are high and obvious, but in every aspect of what we mightcall his illocutionary behavior. It is not simplythathe cannot bear to request something of his avowed enemies and social inferiors;he cannot bear to request somethingof anyone. As Cominius' nominal underling he must twiceask him for favors,and on both occasions he has great difficulty. On the firstoccasion he begins conventionally enough: "I do beseech you" (I,vi,55), but in the space between this illocutionary-force-indicating phrase and the propositional content (Future act A of H), Coriolanus interposes a seriesof reasons forCominius to grantthe not yetspecified request: "By all the battleswherein we have fought,/ By th' blood we have shed together,by th' vows / We have made to endure friends."The effectof this is to limit Cominius' supposedly free power to do or not to do what Coriolanus willask. The forceof the utterancechanges from"willyou please do this?"to somethinglike "you reallyare obliged to do this,"and when the request is finally made it is clear thatCominius has no choice: "thatyou directly Set / me againstAufidius." It is the formof a request,but it has the force of a command, as Cominius well knows. "Dare I never /Deny your asking." On a second occasion, Cominius grants Coriolanus' request before it is made, therebytaking away its sting as an admission of dependence. "Tak't; 'tis yours. What is't?" he declares, saying in effect, "you don't have to ask" (I,ix,81). Even so, Coriolanus does have to ask, and he resentsit: "I that now /Refused most princely gifts, bound to beg / Of my lord general." The word "bound" am



preciselylocates his discomfort;bonds of any kind are intolerable to the free-standing man. Yet for once Coriolanus chooses to put them on: I sometimes herein Corioles lay At a poor man'shouse; he used me kindly. He criedto me; I saw himprisoner: But thenAufidius within view, was my And wrath o'erwhelmed pity. request I my you To givemypoor hostfreedom. (I,ix,82-87) "He used me kindly."That of course is just the trouble. By using him kindly,this "poor man" makes Coriolanus his debtor (and implies that he is his equal). This is why Coriolanus is willingto execute a proper request, withoutin any way qualifyingit: he will put himselfunder an obligation(to a man who has already assured him thatitwillnot be considered so) in order to get out fromunder a more burdensome one; he asks a favor only to be relieved of owing one. Any doubt that this rather than gratitudeor compassion is his motive is removed by the exchange that follows: Cominius: DeliverhimTitus. Lartius:Marcius, name? his Coriolanus: Jupiter, By forgot!


The man himselfis not important;he is less someone to be remembered than a shackle to be thrownoff. If Coriolanus has difficulty with requests he is literallybeside himselfin the face of praise. He cannot bear to hear it, and he is unable to accept it, fromanyone. Lartius merelysuggeststhatit is too soon for Coriolanus to reenter the battle,and he is told (does the gentleman protest too much?) "Sir praise me not" (I,v,16). Later Coriolanus spends an entirescene turningaway praises,and he is careful to explain that his is no army-camp gesture: "My mother,/ Who has a charterto extol her blood, / When she does praise me grieves me" (Iix,13-15). Why grieves?Surely that is an excessivereaction.The reason foritbecomes clear when we allow a speech act analysisto tellus whatis involvedboth in praisingand in accepting praise:

Praise Accepting Praise


Propositional Someact,property, quality, E content to etc., related H Preparatory E reflects on creditably H and S believes itdoes. that S values positively. E Sincerity Essential


S feels or grateful forA appreciative Counts a positive as valuation Counts an expression as ofgratitude appreciofE. or ation.

A benefits andS believes S A benefits S.

The analysisof praisingis myown; the analysisof acceptingpraise is Searle's analysis of thanking for, because that is what the acceptanceof praise is. Together theyshow thatifCoriolanus were to thank his praisers he would be admittingtheir right to evaluate him, to determinewhat in his actions was creditable; he would be acknowledgingthathe received addition fromthe praise. In short, he would be receiving from others what he thinks can only be bestowed by himselfon himself.That is what grieves him, the ignominy (even if its form is benign) of submitting himselfto the judgment of anyone. Cominius says as much when he proteststhe protesting. "You shall not be /The grave of your deserving;Rome mustknow/The value of her own" (Iix, 19-21). That is, you must not be so jealous of your meritsas to allow no one but yourselfto confirmthem. He urges Coriolanus (still Marcius) to accept one tenth of the horses and treasure "In sign of what you are" (26). Such a sign,however,would be a public recognition ofjust the kind Coriolanus wishes to avoid, lest it appear that because his desert was forhire,it required externalverification. cannot,he declares, I "make my heart consent to take /A bribe to pay my sword. I do refuseit" (37-38). He wantsno thirdpartiesinterfering (claiminga part) in the transactionsbetween himselfand himself.It is hard, however,to keep the public out (shortof settingup a stateof one, somethinghe will later come to); the soldiers make of his disavowing of praise and treasure an occasion for new praise, drawing fromthe hero stillanother refusal: "No more, I say ... /You shout me forth/ in acclamations hyperbolical; / As if I loved my little should be dieted /In praises and sauced withlies" (47, 50-53). This is naked. To accept these praises would be to admit thathe courted them,wanted them,needed them; even worse it would be to imply



that he was fed by them instead of by the approval he bestows on himselfand would reserve to himself.This is too much for Cominius who comes close to tellingCoriolanus what his modestyreally signifies: are Too modest you; thangrateful Morecruelto yourgood report To us thatgiveyoutruly. (53-55) a turned,but it is unmistakably complaint, This may be gracefully In borderingon a criticism. your concern to protectyour modesty, to hold yourselfaloof from "good report,"you neglect the reciprocal courtesies that make a societycivil; you withhold gratitude implythatwe are unable to performan act thatwould and thereby draw it. Cominius triesonce again, offeringMarcius a new name, "Caius Marcius Coriolanus" (65). This too is a sign,but because it is a sign of himself(of his action), the power to bestow it is severely The acceptance is limited.In a sense, then,he bestowsit on himself. curt and graceless-"Howbeit, I thank you"-but it is made. The contestis over. In thisscene Coriolanus parries withhis friends;in Act II, scene iii,he faces his enemies; but the structureof both scenes is exactly by the same: a determinedeffort the hero to keep himselfclear of all obligationsand bonds, except forthose he himselfnominates,is resistedby those who perceive, however dimly,what his illocutionary behavior means. His reluctance to make a request and his to inability accept praise have a single source in a desire for total independence. There are speech acts he is good at. He is fine at refusingand even betterat promising.Both make sense. Refusing is saying "I can do (in the fullestsense of agency) withoutit"; and while promising involvesundertakingan obligation,it is an obligationthe promiser both creates and discharges; when he keeps his promise,he is being true to his own word,not to the word of another. It is Coriolanus' favoritespeech act, the one by which he defines himself. When news of war reaches Rome, he is urged to "attend upon Cominius," who reminds him, "It is your former promise" (Ii,239). "Sir, it is," he says, "and I am constant." Later he meets Aufidius on the battlefield,and, reaching for the worst thing he can think of, declares, "I do hate thee / Worse than a promise-



breaker" (Iviii, 1-2). When he is asked to take back his word to the tribunes("Repent, what you have spoke"), he cries,"I cannot do it to the Gods, / Must I then do't to them?" (III,ii,38-39). When the citizenstake back theirs,he asks in contempt,"Have I had chilon dren's voices?" (III,i,30). The tribunesbase theirentirestrategy a pledge theyhave heard him make: I heardhimswear, Werehe to standforconsul,neverwouldhe nor Appeari' th'marketplace, on himput of The naplessvesture humility; is, as Nor,showing, themanner hiswounds breaths. stinking To th' people,beg their (IIi,238-42) "It was his word," says Brutus and Sicinius wishes"no better/Than to have him hold that purpose and to put it / In execution." They know theirman (Brutus replies "'Tis most like he will") and as he goes off to "discharge the custom of request" they predict his behavior in the passage withwhich this paper began: to Brutus: You see howhe intends use thepeople. intent. willrequirethem, He perceive's Sicinius:Maythey whathe requested As if he did contemn Shouldbe in themto give. It might seem from this that they are counting on him to be insincere, to say one thing and mean another; but in fact it is exactlythe reverse; theyare countingon him to mean exactlywhat he says and theycount on him to do it by makingvoid the speech The surestway to avoid a speech act he purportsto be performing. act is to violate the essentialcondition,to say in the case of promises, "I promise to do x, but I don't intend to" or in the case of requests, "I am asking you to do this, but I don't want you to." When Sicinius says, "May theyperceive's intent,"he doesn't mean "maytheysee throughhis language to the motionof his heart,"but "may they correctly(by attending to the performance or nonof performance stipulatedprocedures) read his language." (In fact, it is hard to see what it would mean to make an insincererequest if the specificationwere other than conventional. If I execute the proper procedures and ask you to do something,and later, after you've done it, I tell you that I didn't want you to, you have a response in "well,you shouldn't have said that."Notice that perfect



you will not say, "You shouldn't have intended that" because it is assumed that intentionis a functionof what is said. Part of Coriolanus' tragedy is that he is forever seeking a level of intention deeper-more essential or more real-than that stipulatedby the public conventionsof language.) The tribunes'laissez-faire strategy almost doesn't work,precisely because for a time the citizens do not "perceive's intent,"even though,as we have seen, he systematically violateseveryone of the conditionson the request he is supposedly making.2It is only later that theyopen their copy of SpeechActs and begin to analyze the infelicities his performance: of He mockedus whenhe beggedour voices. Certainly, He flouted downright. us First Citizen: No, 'tishiskindof speech-he did notmockus. SecondCitizen:Not one amongst save yourself, says but us, He used us scornfully.
(II,iii, 163-168)

Second Citizen: ... To my poor unworthynotice,


The tribunes need only guide the discussion which ends in the determinationthat he "did not ask, but mock" (II,iii,213). Again, the findingis a procedural, not a moral one. It is not that Coriolanus did not keep his word, but ratherthathe did, and in a way altogethertypical, botchinga procedure which,if properlyexeby cuted, would have tied him to the word of another. It becomes possible to writea Speech Act history Coriolanus, of the play and the man: he cannot make requests or receive praise; he is mosthimselfwhen he is eitherputtingthingsby or promising. In slightly different ways requesting and accepting praise are acts whichplace theirperformer a positionof dependence (hence the in force of "I wouldn't ask you for the time of day" as a way of assertingthat you don't want or need my help); promising and rejecting,on the other hand, are transactionsthat leave the self inviolate. Coriolanus' every illocutionarygesture is one that declares his disinclination implicatehimselfin the reciprocalweb of to obligationsthatis the contentof the systemof conventionalspeech
2Whytheydon't see this is a question beyond the scope of the present analysis, although two explanations suggest themselves:eithertheyare stupid,or theydon't want to see. These are Sicinius' explanations (II, iii, 180-182).



acts. To put it simply, Coriolanus is always doing things (with words) to set himselfapart. act He finallysucceeds. The most spectacular illocutionary performedin Coriolanus is the double banishingof III,iii. In any production,the scene is the centerpiece,the climax to whicheverything beforeit has been building; but in a way thatSpeech Act theorycan because the explicit It explicate,it is anti-climactic. is anti-climactic act merelyconfirmsor ratifieswhat Coriolanus has been doing all the while, settinghimselfapart from the community.He cuts the last tie before he is banished, when in response to the pleas of Cominius and Menenius ("Is this the promise you made to your mother"),he declares, "I would not buy /Their mercyat the price of one fairword, / Nor check mycourage forwhat theycan give,/ To have't withsaying'Good morrow"' (IIIiii,90-93). It is no accident that "greeting"is cited as the smallest price he mightbe expected to pay. Here is Searle's analysisof it: content Propositional Preparatory Sincerity Essential

None (or S hasjustencountered been to, introduced etc.)H. None of recognition as Counts courteous
H byS.

What strikesus immediatelyis how little,relativeto other speech acts, greeting commits us to. One who greets commits himself neitherto a proposition,nor to a desire, nor to a positionin a line and dependence, but simplyto being a memberof the of authority (speech act) communitywhose conventional means of expressing courtesyhe is now invoking.Greetingis the bottomline of civility; it has no content except the disposition to be civil; it is an act we that the performeven in the company of our enemies, signifying depend on somethingwe share. We differences dividingus finally can say of someone "I'll never ask him for anything again," or "I'll never rely on his promises,"and stillbe understood to have commerce with him; but if we say "I will not even say 'hello' to that man," it is understood thatwe will have nothingto do withhim at all. Coriolanus says that to the Roman citizens,and when, in the theybanish him,theymerelysay itback: "Let him verynextinstant, away! / He's banished" (IIIiii,106-107).



What happens next, however, does not take place within the precinctsof speech act conventions; rather,it subvertsthem and along withthem the institutions withwhichtheyexistin reciprocal support. Coriolanus turns around and says, "I banish you":
You common cry of curs, whose breath I hate As reek o' the rottenfens,whose loves I prize As the dead carcasses of unburied men That do corrupt my air, I banish you.


The disruptiveforce of thisis a functionof the kind of act banishing is. FollowingSearle's taxonomy,we would label it a declarative, a class that has two definingcharacteristics:
(1) The successfulperformanceof one of its membersbringsabout the correspondence between the propositional content and reality.... Declarations bring about some alterationin the statusor condition of the referredto object or objectssolelyin virtueof the factthatthe declaration has been successfully performed. (2) The masteryof those rules which constitutelinguisticcompetence for by the speaker and hearer is not in general sufficient the performanceof a declaration. In addition there must existan extralinguisticinstitution and the speaker and hearer must occupy special It as places withinthisinstitution. is only given such institutions the the stateand a special positionof church,the law, privateproperty, that one can exthe speaker and hearer withinthese institutions communicate,appoint, give and bequeath one's possessions or declare war. (A Classification Illocutionary of Acts,ms. pp. 23-24)

The first point can be captured,in the phrase "sayingmakes it so." Other speech acts are attemptseither to get the words to match a stateof affairsin the world (reports,assertions,explanations) or to get the world to match the words (promises,requests): but, witha declarative,the directionof fitgoes both ways,for the words are made to fitthe world at the same instantas the world is madeto fit thewords.This is because declaratives create conditionsto which the theyrefer.More obviouslythan any other class of speech acts,they testify the power of language to constitute to reality.Searle's second point is thatthispower depends on the speaker's occupyinga position of authority an extralinguistic in in institution; the absence of thatinstitution and the speaker's position in it,a so-called declara-



tive utterance would have no force (as when a fan yells "strike three"). What Coriolanus' counter-banishing suggests is that this can be turnedon its head. It is not thatwords are in forceonly so long as the institutions are, but thatinstitutions in forceonly so long as are the words are, so long as when theyare utteredhearers performin the stipulated way (the batter returns to the dugout, the armed forcesmobilize,the defendant is released fromcustody).If, on the other hand, hearers simplydisregard a declarativeutterance,it is not thattheyhave ceased to pay attentionto the words (which still bear the perfectlyordinary and understood meanings of commands that are not being obeyed), but that they have ceased to recognize-and assist in the constitutionof-the institution. The moral of this is chastening, even disturbing: institutions are no more than the (temporary)effectsof speech act agreements,and theyare thereforeas fragileas the decision,alwayscapable of being revoked, to abide by them. This becomes obvious if one reflectsa biton the ontological statusof declaratives(a reflection not usually encouraged because so much hangs on the implicit claim of authorityto be eternal): if declarative utterances,when they have their intended force,alter statesof affairs, what bringsabout the stateof affairsin which a declarative utterance is endowed with its intended force?The answer is, another declarativeutteranceand it is an answer one would have to give no matterhow far back the inquirywas pushed. The conclusionis inescapable: declarative(and other)utterancesdo not merelymirroror reflect state; theyare the the state,which increases and wanes as they are or are not taken seriously. It mightbe objected thatto reason in thiswayis to implythatone can constitute state simplyby declaring it to exist.That of course a is exactly what happens: a single man plants a flag on a barren shore and claims everything eye can see in the name of a distant his monarch or for himself;another man, hunted by police and soldiers,seeks refugein a cave, where,alone or in the companyof one or two fellows,he proclaims the birth of a revolutionary government.In the case of Coriolanus, the declarationof independence is more public,but it has the same content.We can see thisby imagining him doing somethingelse: had he said, "you can't banish me because I herebyrenounce my citizenship"(on the model of "you can't fireme; I resign"),his act would be a recognitionof the state and of his position in it; but by saying "I banish you," he reduces



the stateto a counter-declaration and bringsabout the verycondition he had warned against earlier: mysoul aches To know, whentwoauthorities up, are Neither supreme, howsoon confusion Mayenter'twixt gap of bothand take the The one byth'other. (IIIi,108-1 12) The case is worse even than that: if two authorities, whynot three or four or four hundred? What Coriolanus does opens the way for anyone who feels constrainedby the bonds of a societyto declare a societyof his own, to nominatehis own conventions, stipulatehis to own obligations; suddenly there is a possibility a succession of of splinter coalitions, each inaugurated by the phrase Coriolanus hurls at those whom he has cast behind him: "There is a world elsewhere." It would be a mistakehoweverto thinkof Coriolanus simplyas a revolutionary. would not agree withmyanalysisof what he does He because in his mind banishing is not a politicalact (and therefore finallydependent on the vagaries of circumstance),but an act which derives (or should derive) its authorityfrom the natural meritof itsperformer. The world elsewherehe seeks is not another state (for then he would simply be trading one systemof conventional ties for another), but a world where essences are immediatelyrecognized and do not require for their validation the mediation of public procedures. For a time, the Volsci seem to offerhim such a world. He is givencommand withouthavingto ask for it. Aufidius hands over his prerogatives as if they were his natural right("no questions asked him by any of the senators but theystand bald before him."); soldiers obey him and even preface theirprayerswithhis name; townsfall to him even before theyare besieged ("All places yieldto him ere he sitsdown"). And all of this seems to transpire,as Aufidius says, "by sovereigntyof nature" (IV,vii,35). He is in short exactlywhat he always wanted to be, a natural force whose movementthrough the world is independent of all supports except those provided by his own virtue. He is complete and sufficient unto himself.He is a God. It is as a God (and as a machine) that Menenius reports him:
When he walks,he moves like an engine and the ground shrinksbefore his treading.He is able to pierce a corseletwithhis eye, talkslike a knell,



madeforAlexanHe and hishumis a battery. sitsin hisstateas a thing nothing He with he der.What bidsbe doneis finished hisbidding. wants in. and of a god buteternity a heavento throne 1 (V,iv, 8-25) "Whathe bids be done is finishedwithhis bidding." A more concise account of declarativescould not be imagined. Coriolanus is in that happy state where his word is law, and not because he is the spokesman for an institutionalauthority,but because he is the source of law itself.His is the declarative of divine fiat,thelogos, the all-creatingword. This, however,is an illusion,mounted by Aufidiuswiththe inadof complicity the Volsci,and believed in onlyby Coriolanus. vertent is The truth thatthereis no worldelsewhere,at leastnot in the sense Coriolanus intends, a world where it is possible to stand freely, unencumbered by obligations and dependencies. There are only and everyone of them exacts as the otherspeech act communities, price of membershipacceptance of its values and meanings. Coriolanus is paying that price, even as he is supposedly moving toward independence and Godhead. He no sooner enters Antium before he performsthe veryacts he disdained in Rome. He greets ("Save you, sir"); he requests, and with full acknowledgementof the positionit puts him in ("Direct me, ifit be your will,""Which is his house, beseech you?"), and he thanks ("Thank you, sir: A farewell").3 greater ignominyfollows:when he gains admission to Aufidius' house, no one knows him; in a gestureintended to be he revelatory, unmuffles,expecting, Satan-like,to be announced simplyby the transcendantbrightnessof his visage. Nothing happens, and Aufidiuskeeps asking"What is thyname?" as Coriolanus feeds him more and more clues. Finallyhe is reduced to tellinghis name: "My name is Caius Marcius" (IV,4,69). The man who would of stripdown to essences and be recognized simplyby "sovereignty (name, nature" is forced to cover himselfwithpublic identification rank, and serial number) before he has enough substance even to be addressed. Acts,Searle makes a point thatis relevant In a footnoteto Speech here: constitutwith one on Standing thedeckof someinstitutions can tinker But overboard. could someotherinstitutions iverulesand eventhrow



one throw institutions all overboard? One couldnotand still ... engage in thoseforms behavior consider of we characteristically human. (186 n.) Coriolanus triesto throwover all institutions the same timethat at he is engaging in activities thatare characteristically human. It is a contradictionthat he tries to mediate by acting as if his contacts withhuman beings were accidental,as if he were a meteoror comet whose unconstrainedwayjust happened to take it through places where men lived togetherin mutual interdependence.That is why he answers to no name: "Coriolanus / He would not answer to; forbadeall names; /He was a kind of nothing,titleless" (V,i,11-13). He wants to be a nothingin the sense of a substance not made, a substancethat mightfor a moment take up community space, but would abide long after the communityand its names had passed away. But his abilityeven to strikesuch a pose is a functionof the power a community, the Volscian community, has given him. He maystand "As ifa man were author of himself And knewno other / kin,"but the "as if" preciselylocates the weaknessof his stance; it is rooted in a fiction, the illusionthat a man can be a man and still in be totallyalone. It is,however,his fiction, less real in itsconsequences than the no fictions society;and even ifhe is the onlyone who livesbyit,he is of still subject to its rules and penalties. There is, finally,only one rule: the word is fromCoriolanus and it is the law; it acknowledges no otherauthority; recognizesno obligationsthatit does not itself it stipulate("Away ... Wife,mother,child"); it hears no appeals; it is inexorable, or, to use a word several times applied to Coriolanus, "absolute." Once set in motion,it is like tie machine he is said to have become: nothingcan stand against it. It follows,then, that when Coriolanus stands against it, he is destroyed. It is his own word that convicts him and it is able to convicthim because he has pledged his loyalty it and to nothing to else. Had he not made a religion of keeping to his word, then his breaking of it could not have been cited by Aufidius as a capital crime: "perfidiously He has betrayedyour business ... /Breaking / his oath and resolution,like /A twistof rottensilk" (,95-96). What he stands accused of is being human; he has listened to his mother,wife, and child; but since it has been his claim and his desire to stand apart fromhuman ties,he cannot now acknowledge them withoutpaying the penalty demanded by the abstraction-



the totally autonomous self-he has set up in theirplace. Yet at the very moment that he pays the penalty, Coriolanus exposes that abstraction a fiction. as The speech act community reclaimshim as inescapably its own when he provides the strongestpossible evidence that he is neithera God nor a machine. He dies. It is evidence the significanceof which always escapes him. Unlike some of Shakespeare's heroes, Coriolanus never learns anything:even as his "world elsewhere" reveals itselfto be baseless, he defiantly reassertsits constitutive firstprinciple: "Alone I did it." The final comment on this and on his every other claim of independence is made by the play's closing words: He shallhave a noblememory. The ironyis unrelenting.The man who scorned the word of the community ("You common cryof curs whose breath I hate"), even to the extent of disdaining its names, now depends on that word (and on those breaths) for the only life he has. II. What Not To Do with Speech Act Theory I want to make it clear what it is that I am and am not claiming forthisanalysisof Coriolanus. am not claimingthatitis exhaustive. I Nor am I claiming that what it says is wholly new. What I am claimingis thatit doesn't cheat; bythatI mean thatthe stagesin the argumentfollowone another withoutever going outside the definitionsand descriptionsof Speech Act theory.Thus simplyby paying attentionto the hero's illocutionarybehavior and then referringto the fulldress accounts of the acts he performs, is possible it to produce a speech act "reading" of the play: 1. In his reluctance to make a request or accept praise, he declares his independence of conventional(that is, public) procedures for confirming meritor desert. 2. When he goes so far as to refuse to greet,his settinghimself is apart fromthe community complete, and he stands alone. 3. By banishinghim,the citizenssimplyratify and confirmwhat he has already done; by banishingthem,he makes explicithis rejectionof the communityand his intentionto stand alone, as a societyof one, as a statecomplete in himself, independent of all external supports and answerable only to the laws he himselfpromulgates. In short,he decides to be a God.



4. As a God, he demands absolute obedience to his word (the sacred text),establishinghis promises and pledges as the law against which no other considerationsor loyaltiescan stand ("Thou shalt have no other Gods before me"). 5. By going back on his pledge, he stands againstit and is struck his down accordingly.Dying, he acknowledges involuntarily necessary involvementin the communityfrom whose conventionshe sought to be free. In the end, the fiercely private man exists only by virtue of the words of others ("He shall have a noble memory"). To the extent that this reading is satisfying, is because Corit iolanusis a Speech Act play. That is to say,itis aboutwhatthe theory is "about," the conditionsforthe successfulperformanceof certain conventionalacts and the commitments one entersintoor avoids by performing refusingto performthose acts; indeed, as we have or seen these conditions and commitments are what the characters discuss,so thatat timesitis almostas iftheywere earlypractitioners of Oxford or "ordinarylanguage" philosophy.That is whywe seem to have gottensomewhere by puttingscenes fromthe play side by side withthe analyses of the theory:the questions it is able to ask and answer-what is involvedin a request? whatis one doing when one greets?what enables one to banish?-are the questions about which the action revolves. There are of course questions the theorydoes not even touch, and it is when its termsare stretchedto include such questions that cheating occurs. Like Transformational Grammar before it, Speech Act theoryhas been sacrificedto the desire of the literary criticfora systemmore firmly grounded than any affordedhim by his own discipline. The career of this desire always unfolds in two stages: (1) the systemor theoryis emptied of itscontentso thatthe distinctionsit is able to make are lost or blurred, and (2) what remains, a terminologyand an empty framework, made into a is metaphor. A spectacular instanceof this process has recently been provided by Wolfgang Iser ("The Reality of Fiction,"NLH, vol. VII, No. I, Autumn, 1975, 7-38) who beginsbyallegorizingtheterm "performative," taking it to mean that part of an utterancewhich produces something as opposed to that (constative) part which asserts something; illocutionaryforce, in his account, refersto a "qualityof productiveness"(1 1). But the only thingthat performative or illocutionaryacts produce is recognitionon the part of a



hearerthatthe procedures constitutive a particularact have been of invoked; illocutionaryforce is not something an illocutionaryact exerts,but somethingit has (by virtue of its proper execution); it refersto the way an utterance is taken (as a promise, command, request, etc.) by someone who knows the constituting procedures and theirvalue. It is simplywrongto thinkof an illocutionary as act producingmeaning in the sense of creatingit. Indeed the meaning theact produces (a betterword would be presents, in he presents as a compliment)necessarilypre-exists or, to put it another way,in it; Speech Act theory,meaning is prior to utterance. Iser's confusion is such that one mistake not only leads to but makes inevitableanother. The notion of productiveness, once having been produced (out of thin air as it were) proceeds to rule his argument. Literature, he says, "imitatesthe illocutionaryspeech act,but whatis said does not produce whatis meant"(12). What Iser wantsto say,I suppose, is thatin literatureillocutionary acts do not have theirusual consequences (a position that Austin does in fact hold), but thisis quite different fromsayingthatillocutionary acts in literaturedon't produce what they produce in serious or everyacts proday discourse,because in both contextswhat illocutionary duce is recognitionthat theyhave been produced. If Iser wants a basis for distinguishing literaryfrom ordinarylanguage he won't find it here. Nor will he find it where he seeks it next, in conventionsand the possibility "reorganizing" them: "For Austin, of literary 'speech' is void because it cannot invoke conventionsand accepted procedures" (13). But Austin's point is preciselythat the conventionsand procedures have been invoked, but that there is nothingforthem to hook up to (no one to receive the command or hear the question). Indeed, if the conventional procedures were not invoked what we would have is not "void" speech, but no between literaryand non-literary speech. If there is a distinction speech, it is not one between illocutionaryacts and some other uses. By the kind, but between illocutionaryacts put to differing same argument, the conventions(or rules) that define those acts cannot be said to be presentin one kind of discourse and absent (or uninvoked)in another; fortheyare the procedures whichmake all discourse possible, and any distinctionone might want to draw must be drawn at a level of generalitybelow that at which they operate. Iser avoids thisrealizationbecause he equivocatesbetween sense by whichillocutionary twosenses of "convention":the stricter rather than regulative,and the looser sense acts are constitutive



(roughly equivalent to "accepted practice") employed by literary when theytalk,forexample, of the conventionsof narrative. critics The equivocation is importantto Iser (I am not ascribingan intentionto him) because he wantsto asserta parallel betweena violation of speech act conventions and a violation of the conventions of literatureor society.But the parallel will not hold because in one while in the other case a violation amounts to non-performance, is the theconvention(whichratherthan constituting activity merely a variationon it) is eitherreplaced or modified. Iser, then,is able to conduct his argumentonly because there is and slipand slippage in itsprincipalterms.The shift so much shift page is in one direction, away from the strictnessof definition and towardthe metaphoricallooseness that required by the theory, makes it possible for him to say anythinghe likes. In the end, the words he is using have no relationshipto the theoryat all. It is this, than it thatmakes Iser's performanceless distressing paradoxically, otherwisemight have been. The connection between what he is so sayingand the concernsof the theoryis finally slightthatthereis of no possibility anyone's followinghim. This is not the case, however, with Richard Ohmann, who is a responsible and informed studentof the subject and a respecterof theories.With respect to this particulartheory,however, I believe that he is confused. His Here confusioncan be located at his use of a single word: felicity. for example, is what he has to say about King Lear: corremeasuresout his lands in geometric King Lear ceremonially of infelicity of professions love.The terrible to spondence hisdaughters' of aboutwhatsort human to hisactscorresponds thedepthofhiserror an reality old kinginhabits.
to ("Literatureas Act," in Approaches Poetics,

ed. Seymour NewYork,1973,p. 90.) Chatman,

Apparently,Ohmann thinksthat he is making a Speech Actjudghas ment here, but he isn't. The criterionof felicity to do withthe if execution of conventionalprocedures; an act is felicitous certain specifiedconditions are met: it must be performedby the proper person (a private cannot give an order to a general); it miustbe possible (one cannot promise to have done somethingyesterday); acts, but my and so on. These conditionswill differwithdifferent point is that in the case of Lear's act (we might call it the act of apportioning)theyare all met,and the act is,in termsof the theory, That is, there is a procedure, he invokesit,and felicitous. perfectly



he is the proper person to have done so. In fact, he is the only person who could have done so. What then does Ohmann mean when he calls this act infelicitous?Obviously, that it turned out badly (and indeed it has), but thishas nothingto do withits having thatwould have been betternot followed),"That an act is happy or in felicitous all our waysdoes not exempt it fromall criticism" (How To Do ThingsWithWords, 42). p. The case is even clearer withanother of Ohmann's examples. He is discussing the scene in Major Barbara in which Lord Saxmundham (Bodger the distiller) is reported to have promised to contribute five thousand pounds to the Salvation Army if five other "gentlemen" will give a thousand each. Undershaft promises to help, much to Mrs. Baines' delight and Barbara's consternation. Ohmann comments: been properly executed. As Austin says (his example is of advice

and promise, in factdetermineswhethershe [Barbara] would be partyto

The promiser'smoral characterand intentions bear on the felicity his of

it-agrees to accept the giftand so bring the promise to completion.As clearly,for Mrs. Baines this is irrelevant.... The dramatic irony here rests precisely in the ambivalence of Undershaft's act-felicitous for Mrs. Baines and seemingly, but not really,for him; infelicitous Barfor bara. (p. 87)

Again, this blurs the distinction (which gives the theory whatever force it has) between two different kinds of felicity. Undershaft's

nized. That is what distinguishes conventional acts from others; they are performed by invoking procedures that are agreed on in advance to count as their proper execution. Barbara does not need

promise is complete as soon as his intentionto make it is recog-

to accept the giftin order to complete the promise; it is complete as soon as it is understood to be one. The word forthisunderstanding
is "uptake" ("ah, so that's what he's doing"); what Ohmann is talking about is reaction and it is a reaction to an act already, and felicitously, performed. Were it otherwise, then the reaction would be impossible. The strongest evidence for the completeness of Undershaft's promise is Barbara's recoiling from it. (Similarly, a breach of promise suit is possible only if a promise has been successfully made; if the promise could be shown to be infelicitous the suit would fail.) In both instances Ohmann is doing the same thing: he is sliding over from illocutionary acts to perlocutionary effects and trying to



conditionsof the former.Moreover, include the latterin the felicity this confusion is a matter of principle as he himselfdeclares in another article: act distinctly social.A felicitous is one that of is The notion felicity itself by is "takes," one whoselegitimacy acknowledged all the participants changes,however and whose performance and all those affected, amongpeople. the slightly, socialconnectedness ed. in Trendsin Stylistics, B. Kachru,p. Style," Current ("Instrumental 129) isn't social, but But in Speech Act theory the notion of felicity conventional;the scope of "takes"as Ohmann uses itis much larger acts allows; for by his criterionan than the theoryof illocutionary act would not be considered felicitousuntil a series of follow-up had been conducted and the behaviorof the participants interviews had been monitored; it might even be necessary for the speaker and his hearers to undergo therapyso that their"true" intentions or responses could be determined. But we have recourse to conventionspreciselyin order to get the world's verbal business done (both endless) of checkwithoutgoing throughthe time and effort is out. The notion of felicity social only in the naring everything and not row sense thatit is tied to conditionsspecifiedby a society, in the larger sense that we must wait for social circumstancesto emergebefore it can be affirmed. say Again, when Ohmann declares, "I won't felicitously to you, 'that'sa phoebe' unless I have greaterexpertisethan you in classifying birds" (130), his condition refersto the confidence one might have in the act (of reference)and not to the question of whetheror not it has been performed.(Actuallythere are all kinds of circumof stances in which I can say that to you irrespective myexpertise: e.g., I have been asked by you to be on the lookout for phoebes.) act Once an illocutionary has been performedthereare all kindsof questions or objections you can put to it-what gives you the right to say that?do you reallywant me to? you didn't have to order,you could have asked; you should never make a promiseyou mightnot be able to keep-but you willbe able to framethose objectionsonly because the proper procedures have been invoked and uptake has been secured. According to Ohmann, "If six monthdelays are my standardoperating procedure, I can't felicitously apologize forone of them" (131). But one apologizes when one produces an utterance that in the circumstancescounts as an expression of regret.



You may not accept myapology and you maybe waryof regarding it as a guarantee of my futurebehavior, but you will be able to do these and other thingsonly because I have in fact made it. (You don't say, I failed to apologize because he didn't accept it, but, rather,I apologized, and he didn't accept it.) What is importantabout Ohmann's errorsis thattheyare always honorable and attractive;that is, they are made in an effortto the stretch theoryso thatitwilldo thingswe would like it to do: talk (and other) acts set in about the trainsof events that illocutionary effects the motion,distinguishin dramatic situationsthe different performanceof a particularact will have, speculate as to the reasons whya request or an order or a warning hasn't done what the speaker had hoped it would. Speech Act theorycan point to these matters-they are perlocutionaryeffects-but it cannot explicate thembecause theylie outside the area of its declared competence. Elocutionaryeffectsare conventional; theyoccur simplyby virtue of speakers and hearers being members of the same community and and thereforepartiesto the same agreementsabout what finite ordered procedures "count as" the performanceof what acts. Peron effects, the other hand, are contingent;theycannot locutionary be predictedbecause thereis no way of knowingwhatwillcertainly bringthemoff.This is not to say thatone can't calculate themwith will be natural, not conventional. probability;but that probability Austin puts it this way: "for clearlyany or almost any perlocutiospecial circumnary act is liable to be brought off,in sufficiently by the issuing,withor withoutcalculation,of any utterance stances, p. whatsoever"(How To Do ThingsWithWords, 109). Obviously this doesn't mean that perlocutionaryeffectsdon't occur or thatwe shouldn't be interestedin them when doing literbut that Speech Act theory can offerus no special ary criticism, help in dealing withthem,apart fromtellingus thattheyare what itcannot handle. And if we insiston askingthe theoryto do what it to cannot,we willend up bytakingfromitthe ability do whatitcan. What it can do is tell us what is conventionaland what is not and provide analyses of conventional performances.But if we ignore the distinctionbetween the conventional and the contingentand we call everything meet an illocutionaryact or its consequences, then the termswe are using will have no cuttingforce; they will tellus nothing, whatis the same thing,theywilltellus anything. or, Ohmann courts this danger when he assumes that almost any act. verb thatappears in a sentence is the name of an illocutionary



(This is an inevitableconsequence of his thinkingthat a classificationof illocutionary acts is a classification verbs; fora persuasive of refutation thisview,see Searle,A Classification Illocutionary of of Acts, forthcoming.) Among his listsof illocutionaryverbs we find, "lament, "rejoice," "assume" and "wish" (as in "May you have a long life"). None of these are names of illocutionary acts although they can all be used in sentencesthathave an illocutionary force.If I say "I rejoice in your happiness," I don't performsome act of rejoicing; I express my feelings. If I say, "I wish you a long life," I am not makinga wish,but expressinggood will. If I say,"I assume thatit's raining,"I am not making an assumption,but expressingone. In each of these cases (and in the case of "lament") the verb is not a performative one because the act it refers to is a motion of the mind or heart and does not require the invoking of previously specified procedures for its occurrence. Here is another instance wherethe abuse of Speech Act theoryis also a commenton itslimitations:just as it stops short of claiming knowledge of what happens afterthe performanceof an illocutionary act, so is it silenton the question of what (if anything;the whole world may be conventional) preceded it. No one would deny thatthese are mattersfora criticto inquire into,but theyare the provinceof rhetoric literary (the art of persuasion, a perlocutionary art) and psychology. Speech Act theorycan tell us nothing about them. Neithercan it tellus whatis involvedin tellinga story.In another instanceof stretching the theoryout of its proper shape and usefulness,Ohmann invents"the general speech act of tellinga story" A ed. ("Speech, Action, And Style,"in Literary Style: Symposium, S. Chatman,New York, 1971, p. 251) and goes on to talkabout narrativeconventionswhichinclude the condition"thatthe tellerknows, havinginvented,all the factsand all the sentencescontained in that and the rule that"thetelleralwaysendorses the fictive story," world of the storyfor its duration, and again, by convention,does not acknowledge that it is a fiction"(251, 247). But if these are rules theyare regulative; that is, they are imposed on an antecedently existingformof behavior. One can varyand even ignore themand stillbe engaging in that behavior. Speech Act rules, on the other hand, are constitutive; theydo not regulate behavior but enumerate the procedures which define it. If you practice creative storytelling,you are likelyto end up in an anthology. If you practice creativepromisingyou will not be understood as having promised at all. This is not to deny thatthere are conventionsof storytelling



(many of which are mutually exclusive and yet indiscriminately but that theyare not on all fourswiththe illocutionary felicitous), acts for which Speech Act theoryhas provided descriptions. What is perhaps Ohmann's most troubling distortion of the concernsthe vexed question of style.He believesthatin "the theory between the activated meaning and the fullylaunched distinction illocutionaryact we have the kind of split required for style to exist"("InstrumentalStyle,"118). Of course stylecan onlyexistin a binaryopposition withcontentor meaning. In Ohmann's account meaning is identifiedwith the locutionary act, that is the act of saying somethingwith a particular sense and reference. To this force,much as one mightadd basic meaning one adds illocutionary an intensifier a sentence or flavoringto a piece of meat: "The to indicatoror indicatorsof illocutionaryforce implant the meaning in the streamof social interaction;theyare what makes speech take hold." This suggests that "the meaning" exists independentlyof, force,and thatthe full and priorto, the applicationof illocutionary speech act is built up froma kernel of pure semanticvalue. But as Acts, Searle pointsout, propositionalacts do not occur alone (Speech that is, you don't build up fromthe propositionto the act, p. 25); but down fromthe act to the propositionwhich could not even be picked out were the act not fully launched. Ohmann says, "a forcesto the same meanillocutionary speaker mayassign different ing" (18), but in fact what a speaker may do is performdifferent acts with the same sentence. The mistakeis to think illocutionary that the sentence without illocutionaryforce is "an unactivated meaning"; rather it is just a series of noises, a dead letterwithno more "content"than a listof words. If thisseems counterintuitive, to just try uttera sentencewithoutitsbeing an assertion,a question, a command, etc., and just tryto thinkof a meaning thatis available independentlyof one or other speech act in which it is already imbedded. acts which share a sentence also share To be sure, illocutionary somethingelse, predication.Thus the sentence "I will leave" may, in different be circumstances, a promise, a threat,a warning,or a lives the question of prediction,and in each of those illocutionary have been raised or put on the table. It would be my leaving will wrong, however, to conclude that this raising or putting on the table of the question is the basic meaning of these acts and thatthe choices that a illocutionaryforce indicators represent "stylistic speaker of English can make in issuing his meanings" (119); for,as



raisingit Searle explains "one cannotjust raise the question without in some form or another, interrogative,assertive, promissory, etc.... And... this mirrorsthe fact that predicationis not an act Acts, 124). Another way of putting which can occur alone" (Speech this is to say that predication and the utteringof propositionsare act, not separate acts; theyare slicesfromthe illocutionary and as in the servingof a pie, they cannot be sliced, or even be said to be act available forslicing,untilthe illocutionary has been baked. If I were to say to you, "As to myleaving... ," you could not even think way about the predication withoutcasting it in in an anticipatory Ohmann mode. Indeed, to be consistent some or otherillocutionary meaning around and identify would have to turn his terminology with illocutionaryforce and style with propositional or predicational content,since the distinctionbetween meaning and styleis between the essential and the not-so-essential always a distinction the dispensable). In short,the no(and in hard line formulations tion of illocutionarystylemakes no sense except as the result of an mistaking analyticaccount of the speech act for a genetic one. Whateverstyleis (an issue I willnot engage), itvariesindependentforce. ly of illocutionary But forthe sake of argument,let us suppose thatone could talk style"as Ohmann wants to. How would we proof "illocutionary ceed? It would seem fromOhmann's analyses that we would first acts in a stretchof calculate the incidence of various illocutionary textand then on the basis of thisevidence draw conclusions about an author and/orhis characters.The troubleis thatthisevidence is it or not interpretable, to put the case more sharply, is interpretable in any directionone likes. Suppose that someone in a novel were constantlyasking questions. What would this mean? Well, it depends: it mightmean that he is disorientedand doesn't know how to move about in the situation;it mightmean thathe was constantly testingthose he met; it mightmean thathe wanted to make people feel nervous and defensive; or it might simply mean that there were thingshe didn't know. Of course, a considerationof the context would in a particularcase pin the significancedown, but the is more contextis brought in, the less the significance attributable act. to the incidence of questions or of any other illocutionary That is to say, there will be no regular relationshipbetween a particular whichin another act illocutionary and the determinedsignificance, need that act to emerge. There is simplyno context,would not principled way to complete a sentence of the type, the man who



characteristically performsact x will indicate thereby.... On the other hand, if a characteror an author is continually talkingabout the acts he does or does not perform,and debating the conditions fortheirsuccessfulperformanceand the commitments theyentail (ifquestioningas an act became a subjectof discussionin the novel), then speech act analysis will help us understand what he is doing because he is doing what it is doing. Illocutionary style a notion is unattached to anythingand will always remain merely statistical (unless itis given an arbitrary significance), illocutionary but behavior is a notionone can workwithbecause it is whatSpeech Act theoryis all about. I have been belaboring this point because I believe that by misconstruingit Ohmann turns the major insightof the Speech Act philosopherson itshead, preciselyundoing whattheyhave so carefully done. In How To Do ThingsWithWords, Austinbegins by making a distinction between "constatives"-utteranceswhose business "can onlybe to 'describe' some stateof affairs, to 'statesome fact' or which it must do either trulyor falsely"(1), and "performatives," utterancesthe issuing of which constitutes"the performingof an action"(6). This distinction does not surviveAustin'sexplorationof it, for the conclusion of his book (which is in many ways a selfconsuming artifact)is the discoverythat constativesare also "doings," and that "what we have to study is not the sentence" in its pure unattached form,but "the issuing of an utterancein a situation"by a human being (138). The class of exceptionsthus swallows the supposedly normativeclass, and as a result the objectively descriptivelanguage unattached to situationsand purposes that was traditionally the center of linguisticphilosophyis shown to be a at fiction.By reifying the locutionaryact and making it an independentlyspecifiable meaning to which human purposes and intentions are added (in the form of illocutionaryforces) Ohmann reinstates that fictionin its old position of ontological privilege.4

III. Fact and Fiction
Ontological privilege,however,is one position philosophyis reluctantto leave empty,and it is not surprisingthat a theorythat
or to of off stylistics doing:sliding from illocutionary either locutionary perlocutionary acts.
41tis curious that Ohmann himselfdoes what he repeatedly accuses traditional



substitutesfor the principle of verificationthe notion of appropriatenessconditions would attemptto put those conditionsin its people tryto do place. This is the most popular thingthat literary withAustin and Searle, and theydo it by using Speech Act theory to arrive at definitionsof literatureand/orfiction.Such an enterwhatis notliterabegins withan attemptto specify prise necessarily ture and fiction,or, in a word, what is normative.According to mostof those who have worked on thisproblem,whatis normative is language thatintendsto be or is held to be responsibleto the real statements: world. Here are three representative
The aestheticdistance of the hearer or reader is an essentialingredient story in the aestheticexperience he has in hearing or reading a fictional as a fictionalstory.But he can have aesthetic distance only if there is somethinghe is distantfrom,thatbeing the practicalresponses thatare uses of the senor typically appropriatelybrought about by nonfictive tencescomprisingthe story.It is only because language has the practical role of helping us come to gripswiththe real, workadayworld thatthere can be an aesthetically pleasurable "holiday" use of it. vol. (Richard Gale, "The FictiveUse of Language," Philosophy, 46, 1971, 339.) Writing(or speaking) a literarywork is evidentlyan illocutionaryperfromthe seemingacts that formanceof a special type,logicallydifferent make it up. The contractbetween poet and reader or hearer does not rejoinders,laments,promisput the poet behind the various statements, es, or whatever,that he seeminglyvoices. His word is not his bond, in just thisway. Perhaps the onlyserious conditionof good faiththatholds forliterary worksand theirauthorsis thatthe author not give out as fact what is fiction Literaryworksare discourses withthe usual illocutio... naryrules suspended. If you like,theyare acts withoutconsequences of the usual sort, sayings liberated from the usual burden of social bond and responsibility. (Ohmann, "Speech, Literature And The Space Between," NLH, IV, 1972, 53.) Now what makes fictionpossible, I suggest, is a set of extralinguistic, nonsemanticconventionsthatbreak the connectionbetween words and the world establishedby the rules mentioned earlier. Think of the conventions of fictionaldiscourse as a set of horizontal conventionsthat break the connections established by the verticalrules. They suspend the normal requirements established by these rules. Such horizontal conventionsare not meaning rules; they are not part of the speaker's



competence. Accordingly,theydo not alter or change the meanings of any of the words or otherelementsof the language. What theydo rather is enable the speaker to use words with their literal meanings without undertaking the commitmentsthat are normally required by those meanings. (Searle, "The Logical Status of Fictional Discourse," NLH, VI, 1975,


These statementsare not on all fours with one another. While Searle and Gale oppose workaday or normal discourse to fiction, Ohmann opposes it to literature,a point Searle takes up when he assertsthatbecause literature, unlike fiction, the name of a set of "is attitudeswe take toward a stretchof discourse, not a name of an internalpropertyof the stretchof discourse" ("Logical Status," p. 320), one cannot make a clean break between the literary and the nonliterary. have argued for this position elsewhere.)5Ohmann (I also implies that the speech acts found in literatureand ordinary discoursediffer kind,where forSearle and Gale the difference in is one of degree: the acts are the same (else one would have to learn a whole new set of meaning rules in order to read fiction), but they entail fewer commitments.These, however, are familyquarrels and theyleave a large and central area of agreement. For Searle, Ohmann and Gale (and many others) there are two kinds of discourse: one that in various ways (or modes) hooks up withthe real world,and another thatoperates withdiminishedresponsibility to that world; the firstis basic and prior, the other derivativeand dependent. Again, the classic formulationis Austin's:6
void if said by an actor on the stage, or if introduced in a poem...

A performative utterance forexample, ina peculiar hollow will, be way or

under the doctrineof the etiolations language. All thiswe are excluding of fromconsideration.Our performative utterances,felicitousor not, are

Languagein such circumstances in specialways-intelligibly-used is notseriously, in ways but parasitic upon itsnormal fall use-ways which

to be understood issuedin ordinary as circumstances.

(How To Do ThingsWithWords, 22) p.

5"How Ordinary Is Ordinary Language?" NLH, V (1973), 41-54. 6Jakobson'sfamous "poetic function" or "set toward the message" is another version,as is Richard's distinction between "scientific" and "emotive"language. See also John M. Ellis,The Theory Literary of A Criticism: LogicalAnalysis (Berkeleyand Los Angeles, 1974), pp. 42-44, and Barbara Smith, "On the Margins of Discourse," Critical vol. I (June, 1975) 769-798. Inquiry,



That there are different kinds of discourse and that theyare distinguished(in part) by the commitmentone assumes by engaging in them seems to me to be obvious. I am not convinced however that one of them is ontologicallyprior to the others,and it is this assumptionI would like to challenge by inquiringinto the statusof phrases like "normal use" and "ordinarycircumstances." arguMy ment will engage Searle's, because it seems to me to be fullerand more rigorous than any I have seen. EverythingSearle says devolves from his juxtaposition of two passages, one an excerpt from an article in the New YorkTimes, writtenby Eileen Shanahan, and the other from a novel by Iris Murdoch:
Washington,Dec. 14-A group of federal, state, and local government officialsrejected today President Nixon's idea that the federal government provide the financial aid that would permit local governmentsto reduce propertytaxes. Ten more glorious days withouthorses! So thoughtSecond Lieutenant Andrew Chase-White recentlycommissioned in the distinguished regimentof King Edwards Horse, as he potteredcontentedly a garin den on the outskirtsof Dublin on a sunny Sunday afternoonin April nineteen-sixteen. ("Logical Status," pp. 332-323)

The first passage Searle labels "serious,"the second "fictional," and he insiststhat he intends nothing disparaging by this distinction: "thisjargon is not meant to implythat writing fictionalnovel or a poem is not a serious activity, but rather that for example if the author of a novel tells us thatit is raining outside he isn't seriously committedto the view that it is actually at the time of writing 321). This gets to the heart of Searle's centralpoint: in a "normal" assertion,such as Miss Shanahan's, the speaker is held responsible for the way his (or her) utterancerelates or does not relate to the world: he commitshimselfto the truthof the expressed proposition; he mustbe ready withevidence or reasons if the truthof the
raining outside. It is in that sense that fiction is nonserious" (320-

expressed proposition is challenged; he will not assert something that is obviously true to both himself and his hearer; and so on. Moreover, these rules or felicityconditions establish what counts as a mistake, and, in law, what is actionable. If Miss Shanahan's assertion is shown to be without substance or proof she is likely to be thought (at least on this occasion) a bad reporter (the title fits perfectlywith the illocutionary act involved) and she is vulnerable to a



suit forlibel. The case, insistsSearle, is exactlythe reversefor Miss Murdoch. "Her utteranceis not a commitment the truthof the to proposition that on a sunny Sunday afternoon in April of nineteen-sixteen recentlycommissioned lieutenant.... Furthera more, as she is not committedto its truthshe is not committedto being able to provide evidence foritstruth"(321-323). The testfor what is "serious" and what is fictionalis the "internal canons of criticism"peculiar to each mode of discourse. The question in everycase is, what counts as a mistake? If there neverdid exista Nixon,MissShanahan(and therestof us) are mistaken. if thereneverdid existan AndrewChase-White, But Miss Murdochis not mistaken. Again,if SherlockHolmesand Watsongo from BakerStreet Paddington to Station a routewhich geographby is ically impossible, will we know that ConanDoyleblundered eventhough he has notblundered thereneverwas a veteran theAfghan if of campaignanswering thedescription JohnWatson, to of M.D. (331). It is typicalof Searle to be scrupulous even at the expense of the distinction(between serious discourse and a work of fiction)he would maintain.It would seem fromthisexample thatwhat counts as a mistakein "real life"can also count as a mistakein a novel,and it is not hard to thinkof novels in which the assertionand descriptionsare held responsibleto all the rules thatapply to articlesin the New YorkTimes. In certain historical novels, for example, every detail would be subject to the scrutinyof readers and criticswho would at everyopportunitybe looking for the chance to say, "but that'snot the way it was (or is)." One mightreply that when that but with history, happens, we are no longer dealing with fiction, but thiswould simplyembroil us in a new argumentabout what is and is not history.Are those passages in Herodotus and Sallust where historicalpersonages deliver speeches of which there could not possibly be a record historyor fiction?Are Herodotus and Sallust "bad" historians because they indulge in such practices? Even to ask such questions is to cast doubt on the utilityof the to whichforcesthem. One who is committed the distincdistinction tioncan hold on to it by admittingthe existenceof "mixed modes," a course Searle takes when he acknowledges that "not all of the referencesin a work of fictionwill be pretended acts of referring; some will be real referencesas in the passage fromMiss Murdoch where she refersto Dublin" (330). But, once thisdoor is opened, it cannot be closed: an author is free to importwhateverreal world



referenceshe likes,and there willbe no rules regardingthe proportions. It is precisely this freedom of mix and proportion that makes a taxonomyof genres both possible and uninteresting. "Fictional genres," Searle declares, are in part "defined by the nonfictional commitmentsinvolved in the work of fiction.This difference, say, between the naturalisticnovel, fairytales, works of science fiction, surrealistic stories,is in part defined by the extentof the author's commitmentto represent facts" (331). The trouble withthisis that the differences can be endlesslyrefined.As Searle admits,"As far as thepossibility the ontologyis concerned, anyof thing goes." He tries to put the brake on by invokinga criterion that can be applied withinany of the worlds that novelistscreate: "As faras theacceptability the ontologyis concerned,coherence is of a crucial consideration"(331). By coherence he means consistency, the degree to which an author honors the contractmade withhis reader "about how far the horizontalconventionsof fictionbreak the verticalconnectionsof serious speech." But the contractcan be broken at will without any loss of acceptability;the reader will simply(or not so simply)adjust and enterintoa new contract whose In lifemaybe no longer than the first.7 otherwords,coherence is a but possibility, not an absolute value and as a notionit doesn't help us to define or circumscribeanything. The truthis that Searle protectshis distinction between fictional and serious utterancesat the expense of itsliterary interest. That is, the category"workof fiction" has no content;one can say of finally it what Searle says of literature: there is no trait or set of traits which all works of fictionhave in common and which could constitutethe necessaryand sufficient conditions for being a work of fiction.Searle himselfsays as much when at the end of the article he feels "compelled" to make a "final distinction:that between a workof fictionand fictionaldiscourse. A work of fictionneed not consistentirelyof, and in general will not consist entirelyof, fictionaldiscourse." At thispoint the hope of isolatingfiction abanis doned: "real world" or serious discourse can be found in novels, and fictional discourse is oftenengaged in by persons operatingin the "real world," by philosophers who say, "Let us suppose that a man hammers a nail," and by sales managers who say, "Men, let's
70f course one could argue thatthisis coherence of a kind,but thatwould merely we show that,like unity,coherence is an emptyterm,an attribute alwaysmanage to "discover"in any work we happen to like.



assume you run into someone who has never seen an encyclopedia...." In short,fictional discourseand workof fiction not are co-extensive categoriesbecause fictionaldiscourse is a rigorous notion in a way that work of fictionis not. Therefore one can make and hold on to a distinction between fictional discourse and serious discourse withoutin any way helping us to answer questions like whatis a novel or a story and how do we tellit froma laundrylist?8 Yet, even if the distinction isn'tmuch help to the literary critic, it stillstands.There is, I thinkwe would all be willingto say,a kind of discourse that is characterized by the suspension of the rules to whichspeech acts are normallyheld accountable. The real question is the statusof those rules when theyare not suspended. What do they enforce? The answer implicit in Searle's work is that they enforcea responsibility the facts.As far as it goes, thisis unexto ceptionable and true,but it stillleaves room for another question: responsibility what facts?Insofar as he is committed the priorto to ityof "serious" discourse Searle would have to say to the factsas theyreally are, but I would say to the factsas the conventionsof serious discourse stipulatethem to be. I am not claimingthatthere are no facts,I am merelyraising a question as to their status: do theyexistoutside conventionsof discourse (whichare then more or less faithfulto them) or do they follow from the assumptions embodied in those same conventions? "If there never did exist a Nixon," says Searle, "Miss Shanahan (and the rest of us) are mistaken."But suppose someone witha philosophicalturnof mind were to declare that Nixon as a free and independent agent whose actionscan be reported and assessed did not exist; that"in fact"the notionof his agency was a bourgeois myth(one mightsay a fiction) by means of which a repressivesocietyevaded responsibility its for own crimes and tyrannies.It would follow from such a view that any sentence in which the name Nixon were attached to a finite preteritetransitiveverb (Nixon said, Nixon rejected, Nixon condemned) would be false to the way things really are, would be mistaken; and any evidence brought forward to substantiateNixon's existence (birthcertificate, photographs,witnessesto his achas 8Searle another answer thisquestion: is theperformance theutterto "It of ance actwith intention invoking horizontal the of the conventions constitutes that the pretended performance the illocutionary (327). In short, is fiction of act" it when author an intends tobe so taken; bySearle's it but ownaccount, intention that wouldbe identifying fictional of discourse and notof work fiction. of



tions) would be inadmissible because the rules of evidence (the procedures for its stipulation)were derived from (or constituted by) the same myth.In the face of such a challenge, the New York Timesand Miss Shanahan could replythatin normal circumstances persons are assumed to existas independent agents and thatit is in the contextof thisassumptionthatreportersfunction and are held accountable fortheirmistakes.This would be a proper and powerful reply,one thatcould be answered only by a wholesale rejection of "normal circumstances"along with all the "facts"that its assertion entails. No doubt such a rejection would fail, but the failure would only confirmthe persuasivenessand coherence of the "normal picture";it would say nothingabout the claim of thatpictureto be objective.Of course the press is oftencriticized precisely because it is not objective; it reads, some complain, as if it were fiction;but the greaterfictionis indulged in when it is read as if it were objective fact,as if the standard of fact to which it stroveto be faithful were naturaland not somethingmade. Searle makes a greatdeal of the "internalcanons of criticism" governingan utterance.I am only insistingthat these canons are indeed internal, and that what countsas a mistakeis a function the universeof discoursewithin of whichone speaks, and does not at all touch on the question of what is ultimately-thatis, outside of and independent of, any universe of discourse-real. In short, the rules and conventions under whichspeakers and hearers "normally"operate don't demand that language be faithful the facts;rather,theyspecifythe shape of to thatfidelity (what Gale calls the "real workadayworld"),creatingit, ratherthan enforcingit. At this point it mightbe helpful to recall P. I. Strawson'snotion of "story relative" identification.Consider, says Strawson, "the followingcase:"
A speaker tells a storywhich he claims to be factual. It begins: "A man and a boy were standingby a fountain,"and itcontinues:"The man had a drink."Shall we say thatthe hearer knows which or what particularis being referredto be the subject expression in the second sentence? We mightsay so. For, of a certain range of two particulars,the words "the man" serve to distinguish one referredto, by means of a description the which applies only to him.... I shall call it.. . a story-relative, for or, identification. For it is identification short,a relative only relative to a range of particulars(a range of two members) which is itselfidentified only as the range of particularsbeing talked about by the speaker....



The identification is within certain a story bya certain told speaker. is It identification within story; notidentification his but within history. (Individuals, York,1963,p. 5) New What I have been suggestingis thatidentification specification (or of facts)is always withina story.Some stories,however,are more prestigiousthan others; and one storyis always the standard one, the one that presents itselfas uniquely true and is, in general, so accepted. Other, non-standard,storieswillof course continueto be told, but theywill be regarded as non-factual,when, in fact,they will only be non-authorized. Searle is right,then,to distinguishbetween serious and fictional discourseon the basis of internalcanons of criticism, it does not but follow I think that this is a distinctionbetween the real and the not-so-real;rather,it is one between two systems discourse conof ventions(two stories)whichcertainly can be differentiated, not but on a scale of reality.Of course the conventionsof "serious" discourse include a claim to be in touch withthe real (thatis whatbeing the standard storymeans), and thereforeit comes equipped with evidentiary procedures (routinesfor checkingthingsout) to which membersof itsclass mustbe ready to submit.But these procedures (whichfictional discourse lacks,makingit different, less "true") not inhere in the genre and thereforetheycannot be broughtforward to prove its fidelity some supraconventionalreality.The point to may be obscured by the fact (I do not shrinkfromthe word) that the fiction thisgenre's statusas somethingnatural (not made) is of one to which we "normally"subscribe; but this only means that of the realitiesconstitutedby a varietyof discourse conventionsit is the most popular. That is why we give it the names we do-"real workaday world," "normal circumstances," "ordinary usage," etc.-and whySearle's argumentsare so persuasive: he speaks to us fromwithinit. But these names are attemptsto fix(or reify)something,not proof thatitis fixed,and indeed the notionof normal or ordinarycircumstancesis continuallybeing challenged by anyone (Freud, Marx, Levi-Strauss)who says,to us, "Now the real factsof the matterare...." Even in the real-workaday(as opposed to the philosopher's) world, where the operative assumption is that the factsare stable and once-and-for-all specifiable,we veryoftensubscribeto different versionsof what those factsare. "Ordinarily"we hold a man responsibleforwhat he does, "does" being defined bya rathercrude standard of "eyeballing,"but in the law, whichis dedi-



ambiguous word) of facts, cated to the finding(what a wonderfully is responsibility attenuated in two directions.A man who participates in a felonymay be found guiltyof a murder even though he did not wield or even see the weapon, and conspiracycan be proven even in the absence of any overt action. On the other hand acts have indisputably that,according to our "usual" ways of thinking, been performedby a single individual,are excused by "mitigating or circumstances" even denied because the agent is said not to have been responsible. Lawyers have had a limitedsuccess arguing that the crime of which their client stands accused has "in fact" been committedby society. To be sure, that argument has not been generally accepted, but it could happen, although if it did, the would have to softenthe claims usuallymade forits judicial system processes. A judge in Massachusettsrules that under the law only women a can be prosecuted forprostitution; woman in Californiapromptly opens a male bordello, at once upholding and challenging the the law has created. For Searle thiswould be an instanceof reality bring facts into being. Institutional the way in which institutions his definition,are distinguished from brute or natural facts,by about physicalor factsbecause there is "no simple set of statements propertiesof statesof affairsto whichthe statements psychological of factssuch as these are reducible" (51). "They are indeed facts; but theirexistence,unlike the existenceof brute facts,presupposes the existence of certain human institutions.It is only given the of institution marriage that certain forms of behavior constitute Mr. Smith's marryingMiss Jones." What I am saying is that the facts Searle would cite as "brute," the facts stipulated by the and are standardstory, also institutional, thatthe power of the Law to declare a man and woman husband and wifeis on a par withthe power of the standard storyto declare that Richard (institutional) Nixon exists. Moreover, nothing in the theory of Speech Acts directs us to distinguishthese declarations from one another or from the declaration by Miss Murdoch of the existence of Lieuto tenantAndrew Chase-White.Of course thereare distinctions be and thatis whySearle's argumade, and we do, in fact,make them, is so mentseems at first obviouslyright.But itsrightness a function of the standard storyas uniquely stipulation of the extra-theoretical true. That is, I am not denying that what will and will not be accepted as true is determined by the standard story.I am only pointingout thatitsbeing (or telling;it amounts to the same thing)



the truthis not a matterof a special relationshipit bears to the world (the world does not impose it on us), but of a special relationshipit bears to its users. notion In large part, my argument follows from Wittgenstein's of a "language game" in which words are responsible not to what is real, but to what has been laid down as real (as pickoutable)by a rules; the players of the game are able to agree set of constitutive thattheymean the same thingsby theirwords not because theysee the same things,in some absolute phenomenal sense, but because they are predisposed by the fact of being in the game (of being parties to the standard story) to "see them," to pick them out. enough, there is more than a littlesupport for this Interestingly and especiallyin his theoryof referview in Searle's own writings, In SpeechActsSearle inquires into "the necessaryconditions ence. for the performanceof the speech act of definitereference." By one account,a successfulreferenceis "a kind of disguised assertion of a true uniquely existentialproposition,i.e., a propositionasserta ing the existenceof one and onlyone object satisfying certaindeswith cription"(83). But this,Searle argues, is to confuse referring describing.The aim of a descriptionis to characterizean object so thatit can be distinguishedfromall other objects in the world; the aim of a referenceis to characterizean object in such a way as to it identify to a person (or persons) withwhom you share a situation. expression the definitearticle"the" is a "conThus in a referring ventional device indicating the speaker's intentionto refer to a single object,not an indicationthat the descriptorwhich followsis true of only one object" (84). In other words the descriptordoes not look to the object as it mightexist neutrallyin space, but to the object as it existsin a context;the "factswhichone must possess in order to refer"are contextspecific;theyare not facts"about some independentlyidentifiedobject." This account of referencecould be cited in support of my posiattached by Searle to the axiom of existence: tionwere it not firmly "There must exist an object to be referredto." What thismeans is capacity of a referringexpression ultimately that the identifying if it is not in the business of asserting)the exisdepends on (even a tence of one and only one object satisfying certaindescription.In the real the "context"in Searle's theoryis ultimately other words, referringexpressions have to link up to it sooner or world (all later), although it seems to me that littleis lost if the context is thoughtof as a storythat has been told aboutthe real world. The



emended account would then be indistinguishablefrom Searle's reference: theoryoffictional
charactersout of But how is it possible foran author to "create" fictional thin air, as it were? To answer this let us go back to the passage from Miss Murdoch. The second sentence begins, "So thought Second LieutenantAndrew Chase-White."Now in thispassage Murdoch uses a expression.... One of the conproper name, a paradigm-referring ditionson the successfulperformanceof the speech act of referenceis thatthere must exist an object to be referredto. To the extentthat we share in the pretense, we will also pretend that there is a lieutenant named Andrew Chase-White living in Dublin in 1916. It is the pretended referencewhich creates the fictionalcharacter and the shared pretensewhich enables us to talk about the character.(329-330)

This seems to me to be exactly right not only for fictionbut for discourse in general. "Shared pretense" is what enables us to talk about anythingat all. When we communicate it is because we are parties to a set of discourse agreements which are in effectdecisions as to what can be stipulatedas a fact.It is those decisions and the agreement to abide by them, rather than the availabilityof substance, that make it possible for us to refer,whether we are Times.One mightobject that or novelists reportersforTheNew York this has the consequence of making all discourse fictional;but it would be just as accurate to say that it makes all discourse serious, and it would be betterstillto say thatit puts all discourse on a par. One cannot term the standard storya pretense withoutimplying that there is another storythat is not. The verywords "pretense," "serious" and "fictional"have built into them the absolute opposition I have been at pains to deny, between language thatis true to and language thatis not. This is not, reality some extra-institutional however,to deny thata standard of truthexistsand thatby invokkinds of discourse: it is between different ing it we can distinguish not but institutional, natural,but just thatthe standard is not brute, is remarkable is how littlethis changes: facts,consemade. What and theydo not fallaway,theyproliferate quences, responsibilities, make the world-every world-alive with the significancesour stories(standard and otherwise)create. In all of this I take Searle several steps furtherthan he would his want to go. Characteristically argumentsrest on a basic opposifacts,regulativerules vs. constituttion: brute factsvs. institutional discourse,the naturalvs. the ive rules,serious discoursevs. fictional



conventional.In each case, the lefthand termstandsforsomething thatis available outside of language, somethingwithwhichsystems of discourse of whateverkind must touch base-Reality, the Real World,Objective Fact. What I am suggestingis thatthese lefthand termsare merely disguised formsof the termson the right,that theircontentis not natural but made, thatwhatwe know is not the world,but storiesabout the world,thatno use of language matches reality, but that all uses of language are interpretations reality. of It followsnecessarilythat Speech Act theoryis one of those interpretations(or stories), and that it is a description not of the truth, but of one attemptto make it manageable, or, more properly,to make it. As an interpretation, however,it has a special status, since its contentsare the rules that make all other interpretations possible.That is, the fiction embodies and therefore it presupposes (it is removed fromexamination) is intelligibility itself.Speech Act rules do not regulate meaning, but constitute To put it another it. way,the ideology of Speech Act theoryis meaning,the assumption of sense and of the possibility its transmission.Of course that of assumptionis correct(I am now depending on it), but it is correct because as members of speech act communitieswe are parties to rules that enforce it, rules that make sense rather than merely to conforming it. Once sense is made it becomes possible to forget its origins,and when that happens the mythof ordinarylanguage has established itself,and established too the inferiorand subsidiarystatusof whateverdeparts fromit. IV. Conclusion If Speech Act theoryis itselfan interpretation, then it cannot possiblyserve as an all purpose interpretive key. And indeed the emphasisof thispaper seems to have shiftedfromthe abuses of the theory an enumerationof all the thingsitcan't do (theyof course to implyone another): it can't tell us anythingabout what happens afteran illocutionary has been performed(itis not a rhetoric);it act can't tellus anythingabout the inner lifeof the performer(it is not a psychology);it can't serve as the basis of a stylistics; can't be it elaborated into a poetics of narrative; it can't help us to tell the differencebetween literatureand non-literature;it can't distinguish between serious discourse and a work of fiction, and it cannot, without cheating, separate fiction from fact. The question forcesitself:what can it do? Well, one thingit can do is allow us to



talk with some precision about what is happening in Coriolanus, althoughafterthe argumentsof the past few pages, one may wonder how thatis possible. The explanation is simple: Coriolanus, I as have said before,is a Speech Act play. By thisI don't mean thatit is fullof speech acts (by definition thisis true of any play,or poem or essay, or novel) but that it is about speech acts, the rules of their performance,the price one pays for obeying those rules, the impossibilityof ignoring or refusing them and still remaining a memberof the community. is also about whatthe theory about, It is language and its power: the power to make the world ratherthan it, mirror to bringabout statesof affairs ratherthan reportthem,to constitute institutions ratherthan (or as well as) servethem. We see this everywhere,but most powerfullyin III,iii when in frenzied unison the citizens cry again and again "It shall be so." Finally Coriolanus a Speech Act play in its narrowness.The course of its is action turnson the execution or misexecutionof illocutionary acts; the consequences thatbefallthe charactersare the consequences of those acts; they follow necessarilyand predictably;they are not contingentand thereforethey are not surprising.(Indeed it is a feature of the play that everyone knows what will happen in advance.) So rigorous is the play's movement,so lackingin accident, coincidence,and contingency, thatitis questionable whetheror not it is a true tragedy,or even in the usual sense, a drama. One mightsay then thatthe power of the play is a function its of limitations, and these are point by point the limitations Speech of Act theory: the stopping short of perlocutionary effects (the banishingis not a response to what Coriolanus does, but another name for it), the silence on the question of the inner life (a space Coriolanus findsalready occupied by a public language), the exclusive focuson acts thatcan be performedsimply(and only)byinvoking a conventional(thatis, specifiedin advance) procedure. This fit betweenthe play and the theoryaccounts forwhateverillumination the presentanalysishas been able to provide, and it is also the reason whywe should be waryof concluding fromthe analysisthatwe are in possession of a new interpretive key. Speech Act theoryis an account of the conditionsof intelligibility, whatit means to mean of in a community, the procedures whichmustbe instituted of before one can even be said to be understood. In a great manytextsthose conditionsand procedures are presupposed; theyare not put before us for consideration,and the emphasis fallson what happens



or can happen after they have been met and invoked. It follows thatwhilea Speech Act analysisof such textswillalwaysbe possible, itwillalso be trivial, mere listof the occurrenceor distribution (a of kindsof acts),because while it is the conditionsof intelligibility that make all texts possible, not all texts are about those conditions. Coriolanusis about those conditions, and it goes the theory one betterby also being about their fragility. does not hide fromus It the factthat its own intelligibility rests on nothingfirmerthan an agreement (foreverbeing renewed) to say "Good Morrow."9
TheJohns HopkinsUniversity

9An earlierand shorterversionof thispaper was givenat the 1974 meetingof the Midwest Modern Language Association in Chicago. The occasion was a panel devoted to the subject SpeechAct Theory and Literary Criticism, headed by Michael Hancher. The proceedings, including a discussion between the panelists and the audience, will be published in a forthcoming issue of Centrum, edited by Michael Hancher, English Department,University Minnesota. of

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