Call for Papers

Speech Acts/Oral Traditions

A Panel Discussion at the Sixth International Literature and Humanities Conference,

Inscriptions in the Sand: an arts and culture conference and festival

at Eastern Mediterranean University

in Famagusta, on the island of Cyprus

May 30-June 1, 2003


Submissions are invited for a Panel Discussion exploring the forms and modes in which literature, broadly defined, is transmitted orally; and how the production, transmission, and reception of “texts” in oral traditions may be addressed in terms of speech act theory or theories of communicative action.


…oral traditions…


For our purposes, forms of orally transmitted literature may include (but are not limited to) traditional narratives such as the epic and the ballad, and ritualized performances (lullabies, incantations, laments, paeans, etc.); and also oral histories, folktales, myths, legends (urban and other), fables, fairytales, ghost stories, proverbs, riddles, jokes and shaggy dog stories, improvised theater, “street talk” or argot, rap or popular song, gossip, rumor, hype, and buzz.

Such language forms may contribute to preserving existing cultural traditions and systems, or to creating new ones. They interact in complex ways with the methods and technologies used to record, print, archive, and investigate them, which codify and transform them through processes of editing, translation, and annotation; by extending their duration, and by recontextualizing their existence in time and place. These codifying processes are framed by, and at the same time generate, the shibboleths and creolized discourses of schools of theory and academic disciplines.

The global reach of electronic media and communication technologies—radio, television, the internet in particular—used to broadcast them has further complicated the study of oral texts not only by modifying their method of transmission, but by dislocating and decentering their cultural/historical provenance, their space of existence, and their audience.


…and speech acts…


In this global context, where the local conventions and assumptions of a culture are constantly being questioned or reconfigured in interaction with other cultures, the literary forms and modes of oral communication and their reception in academic and other disciplinary contexts provide an ideal field of inquiry for the various dimensions of speech act theory articulated by theorists such as Austin, Grice, Wittgenstein, Searle, Derrida, Iser, and Pratt, and the theory of communicative action developed by Habermas.

The relation between speech act theories and social theories of communicative rationality pivots on the operation and validity claims of “illocutionary” speech acts—that is, performative utterances with some inherent degree of agency—which depend on the complex system of socio-cultural assumptions, rules, and attitudes in which they occur.

Since the meaning of illocutionary acts—the “perlocutionary effects” they produce—depends on these conventions of their performance, the forms and modes of transmission and reception of oral literature would seem to constitute critical sites for investigating the illocutionary force of literary/fictional speech acts, and for developing models and paradigms for social action in real-world speech situations.


…at Inscriptions in the Sand.

For more information, please visit our website at  Please also check out our links to Individual Research Presentations” and “Creative/Performance Work.


Prospective panelists are invited to send 250-word abstracts/proposals for 15-20 minute presentations on any aspect of these areas to [log in to unmask] or [log in to unmask] by 30 October, 2002. We look forward to learning about your research, and to a provocative discussion.