Bushell, Sally (2009) The making of meaning in Wordsworth's home at Grasmere : speech acts, micro-analysis and 'Freudian Slips'. Studies in Romanticism, 49 (3). pp. 391-420. ISSN 0039-3762
This paper is the first of two related pieces which explore the value of applying speech act theory to the understanding of textual process and the full critical exploration of draft materials, with particular reference to Wordsworth and the manuscripts of Home at Grasmere. The piece opens with a theoretical section that summarises speech act theory, its adoption and redefinition by deconstruction (allowing for its application to literature) and finally what it might mean to think about speech acts for textual process. This part of the paper seeks to establish that an approach to manuscript materials through speech acts allows us to see more clearly the kinds of interpretative practices that such material requires. The paper argues that the performative element for text in a state of process is concerned with "bringing meaning into being" or "the making of meaning". This in turn demands that we view intentional acts within process differently from those within a "final" text and that we respond to the manuscript in three ways: as a physical object; as a sequence of acts and as part of the developing work of art. The paper then moves from theoretical discussion to an exploration of the interpretation of process through speech acts in Home at Grasmere, a poem particularly suited to such an exploration. This section applies "micro-analysis" in relation to two detailed examples and then a third extended metaphor, ("the traveller in the fog"), reading across the developing teleology of the poem. This part of the paper aims to illustrate the value of uniting an understanding of the poem through its process with an understanding of the meaning of the final text. The third section of the piece turns from reconstructed intended meanings to the issue of speech acts which may be "unintended" on the manuscript page. It analyses two examples of "meaningful conjunction" in Home at Grasmere MS R, a manuscript in which the draft text is written over a printed book, allowing for apparently accidental conjunctions of meaning to occur to quite a remarkable degree. Finally, the paper concludes by considering the issue of unconscious intention in minor "errors" on the manuscript page, interpreted as "Freudian slips". Ultimately, it seeks to show that the full interpretation of draft materials must incorporate both intended and unintended meanings, both the semantic and the material presence of the manuscript.
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