Performativity: 1st Edition (Paperback) book cover


1st Edition

By James Loxley


200 pages

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pub: 2006-11-17
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Do our writings and our utterances reflect or describe our world, or do they intervene in it? Do they, perhaps, help to make it? If so, how? Within what limits, and with what implications? Contemporary theorists have considered the ways in which the languages we speak might be ‘performative’ in just this way, and their thinking on the topic has had an important impact on a broad range of academic disciplines.

In this accessible introduction to a sometimes complex field, James Loxley:

  • offers a concise and original account of critical debates around the idea of performativity
  • traces the history of the concept through the work of such influential theorists as J. L. Austin, John Searle, Stanley Fish, Jacques Derrida, Paul de Man and Judith Butler
  • examines the implications of performativity for fields such as literary and cultural theory, philosophy, performance studies, and the theory of gender and sexuality.
  • emphasises the political and ethical implications that its most important theorists have drawn from the notion of performativity
  • suggests ways in which major debates around the topic have obscured its alternative interpretations and uses.

For students trying to make sense of performativity and related concepts such as the speech act, ‘ordinary language’, and iterability, and for those seeking to understand the place of these ideas in contemporary performance theory, this clear guide will prove indispensable. Performativity offers not only a path through challenging critical terrain, but a new understanding of just what is at stake in the exploration of this field.

Table of Contents

Introduction 1. From the Performative to the Speech Act: J.L. Austin 2. Philosophy and Ordinary Language: Austin and Cavell 3. A General Theory of Speech Acts: Searle 4. Speech Acts, Fiction and Deconstruction: Searle, Fish and Derrida 5. Performativity, Iterability and Politics: Derrida and De Man 6. Being Performative: Butler 7. Performativity and Performance Theory

About the Author/Editor

James Loxley is senior lecturer in English Literature at the University of Edinburgh. He is the author of several books and articles on seventeenth century drama and poetry and on literary theory and philosophy.

About the Series

The New Critical Idiom

The New Critical Idiom is an invaluable series of introductory guides designed to meet the needs of today's students grappling with the complexities of modern critical terminology. Each book in the series provides:

  • A clear, explanatory guide to the use (and abuse) of the term
  • An original and distinctive overview by a leading literary and cultural critic
  • Helpful definitions of the boundaries between the literary and non-literary
  • Basic guidance for the introductory reader in how the term relates to the larger field of cultural representation

With a strong emphasis on clarity, lively debate and the widest possible breadth of examples, The New Critical Idiom is an indispensable guide to key topics in literary studies.

Learn more…

Subject Categories

BISAC Subject Codes/Headings:
LITERARY CRITICISM / Semiotics & Theory