Date of Award


Degree Type


Degree Name

Bachelor of Arts Honours


Faculty of Arts


This thesis is an analysis determined by the investigative proposition, what is a magic realist speech act? Of the schools of thought available to any philosophical undertaking in literature, this thesis makes particular use of the principles of speech act theory, genre theory, and poststructuralism. With genre theory, the emphasis is on the subgeneric construction of the narrative structure, and this thesis will incorporate three short stories from Peter Carey's The Fat Man in History as the most overt evidence for what the thesis is proposing to analyse and illuminate. But on the whole, readers will understand that, while the short stories analysed contribute to the specific concepts and notions of the thesis, the thesis itself is written with the purpose of being able to determine some of the conditions and indicators that make up the larger structure of subgeneric magic realism in narratives other than Carey's. With speech act theory and poststructuralism, the thesis will focus essentially on the dialogue between John. R. Searle (1979) and Jacques Derrida (1979) on the work of the founder of speech act theory, John. L. Austin (1962). The impetus of that dialogue Is the distinction made, by Austin and Searle, between serious discourse, or ordinary language, and non-serious discourse, or fictional discourse. This distinction is argued to be, by speech act philosophers, a necessary condition of being able to establish a general theory of speech acts, or felicitous performances, that can be classified according to their illocutionary forces in ordinary circumstances. Derrida, however, proposes that such felicitous performances, in any circumstance, can be established if, and only if, one considers their infelicitous, or parastic, counterpart in fictional discursivity as an object of analysis to speech act theory rather than an object of exclusion. In what may generally be considered a Derridean approach, this thesis will place such an exclusive binary opposition 'under erasure' to show that the principles of speech act theory are wholly applicable to non-serious discourse and subgeneric narrative structures, which In our case is magic realism. Indeed, this thesis will take, as its point of departure, the notion that the erasure between serious and non-serious discourse is already in place, thereby allowing the argument to concentrate on the principles of speech act theory in fictional discourse as well as its wider applicability to the construction of any subgeneric act in genre theory. Finally, a considerable focus is given to the notion of closure in fictional discourse between Author Function and Reader Function. Using Carey as an example, the thesis will look at how subgenerlc magic realism foregrounds both poststructural play and narrative closure, entertaining the possibility of the two, according to the respective contexts of each condition on the quantum level and larger structure of a narrative's performance. Furthermore, this possible duality of language, this aporia, is, in this thesis, held to be common to all subgenres, known and unknown to genre theory, as well as to the performances of language In both the literary and extra-literary realities.