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Speech Acts and Dramatic Language: A Performative Analysis of Harold Pinter’s The Caretaker

  • Journal of Modern English Drama
  • Abbr : JMBARD
  • 2023, 36(2), pp.147-174
  • Publisher : 한국현대영미드라마학회
  • Research Area : Humanities > English Language and Literature > English Literature > Contemporary English Drama
  • Received : July 24, 2023
  • Accepted : August 7, 2023
  • Published : August 31, 2023

Hyungseob Lee 1

1한양대학교

Accredited

ABSTRACT

This paper aims to establish the enduring significance of J. L. Austin’s theory of performatives as a powerful analytical tool for unraveling the complexities of dramatic language. By applying Austin’s theory to dramatic utterances, this study intends to shed light on the unique insights it can offer and its practical relevance in understanding dramatic texts. To substantiate this argument, a compelling case study is undertaken using Harold Pinter’s seminal work, The Caretaker. This analysis illustrates the significant parallels between dramatic texts and Austin’s theory, highlighting how his framework enhances our comprehension of the intricacies of dramatic communication. By emphasizing the practical applications and benefits of Austin’s theory, this paper seeks to demonstrate that it remains robust and self-sufficient in its capacity to examine drama, requiring no further elaborations or modifications from subsequent theorists. The analysis begins with a concise outline of Austin’s theory of speech acts and its significance within the context of dramatic language. Subsequently, it delves into a comprehensive examination of The Caretaker, utilizing Austin’s theory as a lens to explore the play. To provide a solid foundation for the analysis, a concise summary of the term “pinteresque” is included, which serves as a basis for exploring the languages used by the three characters in the play. The primary focus of the paper centers on understanding how each character negotiates the constative-performative dynamic in their interactions: Davies employs the performative for survival, Aston exhibits resistance with the stative, and Mick demonstrates mastery in performing performativity. While the analysis does not attempt to be exhaustive, its main objective is to introduce Austen’s speech act theory into the domain of dramatic analysis, thereby enriching our understanding of Pinter’s masterful use of language in The Caretaker.

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