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Performing texts/performing readings: A pragmatic understanding of the revisionist interpretation of American literature
Article from Journal - ilmiah internasional
Journal of Pragmatics: An Interdiciplinary Journal of Language Studies vol. 39 no. 12 (Dec. 2007)
The performative has become a generative concept in the study of literature. As a textual process negotiating between mimesis and ontologization, it has allowed the construction of identity to be conceptualized in nonessentialist thinking. In addition, it captures the double aspect of language in the text: its expressive/dramatic aspect, of revealing an existing reality, and its self-producing/self-referential aspect, of creating a new reality. Moreover, not only the text but also reading can be considered performative, since reading brings into existence interpretations that did not exist before. The pragmatic understanding of reading can help explain recent revisionary interpretations of the canon of American literature. Two texts by Henry James, The Beast in the Jungle and In the Cage, are offered as examples for how identity is discursively produced and then read performatively, in dialogue with presuppositions, or frame assumptions, brought to the texts by readers. In The Beast in the Jungle the ghost of homosexuality makes its performance around the silence of the empty signifier. In the Cage presents the telegraphist who lives in a world she has constructed out of the telegraphs that pass through her hands. Her reading of the telegraphs is fictioned by her own assumptions, while James helps his readers to construct a different reading of the events by allowing a different set of frame assumptions to emerge.
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