Speech Acts/Oral Traditions
A Panel Discussion at the Eighth International Literature and Humanities
INSCRIPTIONS '05: an arts and culture conference and festival
at Eastern Mediterranean University
in Famagusta, on the island of Cyprus
May 12th - 13th, 2005

     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

.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
      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

.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.

      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] by 11th February, 2005.  I look forward to
learning about your research, and to a provocative discussion.

For more information about INSCRIPTIONS '05,
please visit our website at
Please also check out our links to "Individual Research Presentations" and
"Creative/Performance Work."

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