Bartleby and the Power
Anders M. Gullestad, UNIVERSITY OF BERGEN
There are several reasons why speech-act theory has proved a fruitful companion to the study of literature. One of them, as Jonathan Culler has argued,1 is that it allows us conceptualize the way language works anew: the critical engagements with J.L. Austin’s founding insights from How To Do Things With Words (1962) performed by Jacques Derrida, Shoshana Felman and Judith Butler, among others, allow the reading of literary texts to appear as an event having real-life consequences, instead of as a passive approach to objects finished once and for all. This venture has supplied us with analytical tools which can offer new possibilities for addressing the relationship between literary texts and society, especially con-
1 “In short, the first result of the performative is to bring to center stage a use of language previously considered marginal – an active, world-making use of language, which resembles literary language – and to help us conceive of literature as act” (Culler 2000: 507).