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What are the key qualities of drama and poetry that emphasize their performative...

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sxyred912 | Student, Undergraduate | eNotes Newbie

Posted April 19, 2012 at 5:44 PM via web

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What are the key qualities of drama and poetry that emphasize their performative qualities?

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wordprof | College Teacher | (Level 3) Senior Educator

Posted April 19, 2012 at 8:37 PM (Answer #1)

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“Performative” is not an official designation for literature, but the idea can be expressed.  Let us start with the idea of a narrator, the character who is telling the story.  This character can be performative when he/she has a distinct “voice” (a way of using language that is consistent with his/her occupation, station, etc.)  An “omniscient” narrator (one who knows everything in each character’s mind, is omnipresent in the plot, is, in other words, the author’s device for telling the story, and not a “character” with psychological traits) is therefore not “performative.”   But a narrator such as the Duke in Browning’s My Last Duchess has a complete psychological presence—in fact the poem is called a “dramatic monologue.”  But virtually all first-person poetry is also "performative ("My heart leaps up when I behold a rainbow in the sky"; "Oft in the stilly night ere slumber's chain has bound me" etc.) Next, consider speech act theory (simply put, the examination of what act is being carried out by an utterance–to declare a fact, to promise, to threaten, to announce, etc.)  If the piece of literature can be delivered as a construction of motives (all dramatic literature, really, by definition, is a series of speech acts uttered by fictive characters), then it is “performative. 

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