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date: 17 February 2020

Abstract and Keywords

Philosophy has tended to regard poetry primarily in terms of truth and falsity, assuming that its business is to state or describe states of affairs. Speech act theory transforms philosophical debate by regarding poetry in terms of action, showing that its business is primarily to do things. The proposal can sharpen our understanding of types of poetry; examples of the ‘Chaucer-Type’ and its variants demonstrate this. Objections to the proposal can be divided into those that relate to the agent of actions associated with a poem, those that relate to the actions themselves, and those that relate to the things done. These objections can be answered. A significant consequence of the proposal is that it gives prominence to issues of responsibility and commitment. This prominence brings philosophical debate usefully into line with contemporary poetry, whose concern with such issues is manifest in characteristic forms of anxiety.

Keywords: poetry, truth, action, agent, serious, anxiety, ‘Chaucer-Type’, first person

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