Literature as Conduct: On J. Hillis Miller’s Speech-act Theory and Its Application


  • Rong Guo School of Humanities & Law, China University of Mining & Technology, Beijing 100083



speech-act, J. Hillis Miller, Yan Geling, The Ninth Widow


Since the publication of How to Do Things with Words in 1962, Austin and his speech-act theory caused a great disturbance in the arena of linguistics and literature, not only initiating the study of pragmatics but also triggering the paradigm change of literary studies in the 20th century. Stanley Fish, Wolfgang Iser, Derrida, de Man, J. Hillis Miller, and many other scholars in the 1970s showed great enthusiasm for theory. Yet, the theory’s limitations and applications are widely known. The publication of Speech Acts in Literature and Literature as Conduct by J. Hillis Miller seems to have given a kind of momentum to its development. Taking Miller’s initiatives as a starting point, this article analyzes a specific literary text, The Ninth Widow by a Chinese overseas writer Yan Geling, with an intention to illustrate that the application of the speech-act theory in the literary studies is indeed promising and productive.


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