How to Do Things with Words and Texts: Literature and Rewriting as Performance in Lloyd Jones' Mister Pip

Korkut-Nayki N.

ENGLISH STUDIES, vol.93, pp.43-56, 2012 (Peer-Reviewed Journal) identifier identifier

  • Publication Type: Article / Article
  • Volume: 93
  • Publication Date: 2012
  • Doi Number: 10.1080/0013838x.2011.638451
  • Journal Name: ENGLISH STUDIES
  • Journal Indexes: Arts and Humanities Citation Index, Scopus
  • Page Numbers: pp.43-56


Ever since J. L. Austin drew attention to the distinction between constatives and performatives in language, speech-act theory has provided significant insights into literary studies. Exploring the performative quality of language as it is employed in literature has introduced new perspectives on issues like the relationship between literary and non-literary language, the nature and ontological status of literary discourse, and the power and potential of literature to influence events. Motivated by such possibilities of interpretation and analysis, this essay approaches New Zealand author Lloyd Jones' recent award-winning novel Mister Pip (2006) from the perspective of studies in performative language. By exploring the way Jones' novel presents literature and rewriting as speech acts, the essay emphasizes the power of the literary text to refer to "reality'' and transform it seriously in both positive and negative ways. In doing so, the essay also aims to demonstrate how the diversity of ways in which speech-act theory has been approached by literary scholars is an indication of the wide-ranging possibilities the theory affords for literary studies.