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Toward a Speech ACT Theory of Literary Discourse

PDF Pratt presents a well constructed case against a formalist, essentialist view of literature as unique and special. Rather, she maintains that literature has its roots in everyday language and human experience and that we bring certain expectations to literature because we know it to be literature in the first place. She supports this by drawing similarities between William Labov's work on natural narrative (people telling their own personal stories/anecdotes) and literary narrative. Further, she argues that H.P. Grice's cooperative principle can be applied to literature, since writing is usually voluntary, as is reading. When the cooperative principle is violated, it is usually due to the fact that the author is purposefully flouting the principle in order to implicate additional meaning to the reader. This is how readers identify irony in works of literature...

It's a relatively easy read, especially since Pratt provides lots of entertaining literary examples along the way. Her argument that literature grows out of daily communication problems and their resolutions is extremely compelling; such an approach also acknowledges the complexity already prevalent in everyday communication.

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