This article suggests that the study of speech act theory can be beneficial to literary criticism by testing forms of fictional realism. It hopes to accomplish this by appealing to the role of speech acts in the creation of social facts, hence in the creation of social worlds both in reality and in fiction. The distinctiveness of this essay is its attempt to instantiate the truth of the foregoing general suggestion by applying J. L. Austin's speech act theory to Lewis Carroll's Alice books, aiming to justify the claims of certain critics who hold that there is more sense in Wonderland and Looking-Glass Land than has hitherto seemed likely. Here I show that an inspection of the performative utterances employed by the various strange characters in the Alice books sometimes reveals the possibility of functional alien social structures. This discovery suggests the relativity of our own social structures—as the practice of anthropology been doing for years—and thereby also suggests the arbitrariness and vulnerability of the foundations of our social world, and certainly that of the Victorian world that Carroll mocks.

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