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Ibsen's Hedda GablerPhilosophical Perspectives$
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Kristin Gjesdal

Print publication date: 2018

Print ISBN-13: 9780190467876

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: December 2017

DOI: 10.1093/oso/9780190467876.001.0001

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Hedda’s Words

Hedda’s Words

The Work of Language in Hedda Gabler

(p.152) 7 Hedda’s Words
Ibsen's Hedda Gabler

Toril Moi

Oxford University Press

For ordinary language philosophy—the philosophical tradition after Ludwig Wittgenstein and J. L. Austin, as constituted and extended by Stanley Cavell—meaning arises in use. Utterances are actions and expressions. This philosophy, therefore, is closely attuned to the work of language in theater. This paper shows that ordinary language philosophy gives rise to a kind of literary criticism that considers reading an practice of acknowledgment, as en effort to understand exactly why the characters say precisely these words in precisely this situation. By paying close attention to Hedda’s interactions with three different linguistic worlds—the Tesman world, the Brack world, and the world she shared with Løvborg in the past—this chapter brings out the contrast between the conventionality and brutality of Hedda’s surroundings and Hedda’s ideals of courage and freedom, and shows that Hedda is more vulnerable, and more damaged, than previous readings have assumed.

Keywords:   ordinary language philosophy, theatre, Wittgenstein, Austin, Cavell, language use, language as expression and action, acknowledgment

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